Norfolk star George Russell ready to make the big step up to Formula One
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Rising British star George Russell believes he could have the pick of as many as four Formula One teams next year.
As Lewis Hamilton heads on his summer holidays with a 24-point championship lead, Russell will be handed another audition by Mercedes when he tests for the team at the Hungaroring on Tuesday and Wednesday.
After winning the GP3 championship last year, Russell, 20, was then handed the role of test driver by Mercedes, and he now leads Formula Two, the feeder series to F1, with only four rounds remaining.
Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff is a keen admirer of the young English driver, and it is understood the Austrian is hopeful of striking a deal to move him to British team Williams in 2019. But a confident Russell says Force India, powered by Mercedes, as well as Haas and also Sauber are potential destinations, too.
“There is absolutely no reason why any of those four teams could not be an option for next year,” Russell told Press Association Sport.
“I have to wait for the drivers ahead of me to fall in place. Is Kimi Raikkonen going to stay? Is Fernando Alonso going to stay? What’s going on with Esteban Ocon at Force India? Will Charles Leclerc go to Ferrari? It is a domino effect, and I am the last domino.
“Williams is certainly appealing to me as they have got a huge history within the sport, and they are known for bringing young drivers into their car, so it would be fantastic to carry on that tradition. I also have a great relationship with Force India.
“But doing well in Formula Two is opening doors at a number of places down the grid, and there is no reason why the likes of Sauber and Haas couldn’t be an option either. If I keep doing what I am doing, I will make the opportunity for myself.”
The future of British motor racing appears in safe hands with Russell, from King’s Lynn in Norfolk, leading 18-year-old Englishman Lando Norris in F2.
Norris is the reserve driver at McLaren, and had been mooted for a promotion to their race team next year. But there is a growing feeling at the British team that he may be better served with another season in F2. Carlos Sainz is now the front-runner to join Alonso, should the Spaniard stay, at McLaren next term.
“Lando and I are friendly with each other, but there is no bitter rivalry at the moment,” Russell added.
“While I hope we can take the baton of British motorsport on, as a driver, I am focused on winning races, winning championships and getting to Formula One.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me if there is one British driver on the grid or 20. I am trying to get there regardless of nationalities. Lando is just another driver who I have got to go out and beat.”
Hamilton is the only Briton on the current F1 grid, and is now the favourite to win a fifth championship after extending his lead over Sebastian Vettel with victory in Hungary on Sunday.
“I have got tremendous respect for Lewis, and the things he does on track,” Russell added.
“In my opinion, there is nobody quicker than him over one lap, and his pace in the recent races has been immense.”