[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] GEORGE RUSSELL: MERCEDES PROTEGE

As the dominant force in Formula 1’s hybrid era, Mercedes is spoilt for choice when it comes to its driver line-up.

…so it’s understandable that in 2016, when Nico Rosberg retired just five days after winning the world championship... 

SOUNDUP (English) NICO ROSBERG,
2016 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“I've decided to end my Formula 1 career.”

…every driver on the grid, including Valtteri Bottas, called Mercedes’ head of motorsport Toto Wolff to enquire about the drive.

SOUNDBITE (English): VALTTERI BOTTAS,
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
"I called Toto, because it wasn't so long when I saw the news. I just wanted to make sure they know that I want to be in this team." 

And though the next in line to replace either Lewis Hamilton or Bottas, when it’s time for either of them to move on, is Force India’s Esteban Ocon… 

The coming man is 20-year-old Brit George Russell, who now shares the Silver Arrows reserve driver role with Pascal Wehrlein.

SOUNDBITE (English) TOTO WOLFF,
HEAD OF MOTORSPORT, MERCEDES:
“George Russell caught my eye a couple of years ago when he walked into my office, sent me an email whether I would have 10 minutes to have a chat with him. And it was just when he did the steps from go karting into single seaters.”

From there, Russell won the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 title. He jumped to European F3 – finishing third in his second year; before taking the GP3 title in 2017. He’s now in F2, where he’s won races in Azerbaijan and Spain.

He’s also dovetailing his racing with F1 seat time, testing for Mercedes and getting Friday practice runs with Silver Arrows customer squad Force India in Brazil and Abu Dhabi last year. And will test for both squads this week at 2018’s first in-season test in Barcelona.

SOUNDBITE (English) GEORGE RUSSELL,
RESERVE DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“So, today, I’m here doing a seat fit…”

… all the while training hard, and doing simulator work for the team to help in developing the car and his technical skills.

SOUNDBITE (English) GEORGE RUSSELL,
RESERVE DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“Ever since the end of 2016, I’ve been training like crazy to make sure I’ll be ready at any point. If they call me up, and say right George, you’re driving tomorrow, I needed to be ready.”

And while it’s expected Russell won’t jump directly from Formula 2 into the Silver Arrows seat, a drive at Force India or Williams could be on the cards in 2020. All he has to do is keep winning in F2, testing well and staying fit – and he’ll be in strong form for a future drive.