George Russell signing to race for Williams for 2019
October 12 2018 , 12:26 pm
George Russell will become the third British driver in Formula 1 next year after signing to race for Williams.
The 20-year-old, a Mercedes protege and leader of this year’s Formula Two championship, has secured what Williams describe as a “multi-year contract”.
“I feel on top of the world,” Russell said. “It has been a lifelong dream to make it to F1 ever since I started racing when I was seven.
“It was a long road. Suddenly it’s here and it just feels amazing.”
Russell said he would remain a Mercedes young driver but added: “As of 2019, I am fully contracted to Williams and that is my 100% full focus.”
Willaims are known for taking on pay drivers instead of more experience drivers who could help grow the team further, instead of taking on pay drivers with less experience.
Russell joins Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and fellow rookie Lando Norris at McLaren to make the largest British contingent on the grid since 2016.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “We have always tried to promote and develop young talent at Williams, and George fits that ethos perfectly.
“He is already highly regarded in the paddock and a driver whose career we have been watching for a while.
“In the time we have spent with him so far, we believe that he will be a great fit for our team. His commitment, passion and dedication are exactly what we need.”
Russell said he felt “extremely well prepared” for F1 after two years in the Mercedes young driver programme, including a series of test outings and two appearances in practice sessions for Force India last year.
In his role as reserve driver for Mercedes, Russell said he had learned valuable lessons from four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and his team.
“It has been an incredible opportunity for me to see how he approaches and deals with a race weekend from within,” Russell said.
“He is portrayed as a guy who from the outside maybe doesn’t look as interested in F1 as he does other aspects of life, but he is extremely motivated and really works hard to get the best out of all of his people.
“Just seeing how he approaches situations and the relationships was a great insight for me.
“My goal is to become F1 world champion one day and to do that I have to be the best, and learning from someone like the Mercedes team and from Lewis is a great opportunity and showed me that you cannot just rely on talent alone.”
Williams are one of the most successful teams in F1 history but they are in the midst of their worst-ever season and are poised to finish last in the constructors’ championship.
Russell said he believed the team were making “a number of changes in the factory” to return to higher levels of performance, after a “tough” season.
“F1 is not just about the driver or the car. You all have to work together to get the best out of each other, and that is something I am really going to be working on – on building these relationships within the team, having trust from all aspects that we are all on the same page and all going in the same direction.”
Russell said he believed Williams could target returning to a position as ‘best of the rest’ behind leading teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – saying “fighting for podiums” was a “realistic target”