Norfolk-born George Russell wins Formula One test and £100,000 prize fund with McLaren award
- Credit: Archant
For George Russell, it was the highlight of a short but spectacular motor racing career when the Norfolk-born racer picked up the highly prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award, a McLaren Formula One test and a £100,000 prize fund to further his career.
On the outside Russell looked calm and collected while waiting to learn if he had been selected as the latest winner, but during the final 20 minutes admitted 'my heart started pumping as the tension began to rack up'.
Finally the young racer's name was called and the 16-year-old, in his first year of car racing, had scooped the biggest prize in junior motorsport, joining luminaries such as Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Paul di Resta and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti.
'I had a fair idea that I was in with a shout because the tests had gone well,' said Russell, who also wins full membership of the Silverstone-based British Racing Drivers' Club and an Arai GP-6 RC carbon race helmet.
'The Formula Two sessions were good and I know the judges look very closely at that, and I felt really good in the DTM car.
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'It's funny because on the night I wasn't too nervous. I knew I'd already done everything possible and the decision was in the judges' hands.
'But in the last 20 minutes before the announcement my heart started pumping and the tension began to rack up.
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'When my name was called I couldn't believe it at first – it's the biggest award a young driver can win. It's surreal.'
Wisbech resident Russell was one of six to contest the final stages of the highly prestigious award on the strength of winning the BRDC Formula Four Championship with a masterful drive in the final race at his home circuit of Snetterton in late October.
Russell also impressed the judges by taking victory after a wild-card appearance in the final Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup round, beating the highly-rated McLaren protégée, Nyck de Vries, in the process.
Like all young kart racers – Russell graduated with multiple titles at both world and European level – Formula One was the dream.
'It feels incredible,' he said. 'From a young age all I ever wanted to do was be a Formula One driver.
'Obviously, I want to race in F1, but on the other hand you know you may only get one opportunity to drive one of them, so it's great to know I can tick that box.
'I'm very grateful for that. It's opened doors for so many people who have won the award in the past and I hope it does the same for me.'
Russell joins Attleborough's Ralph Firman Jr as a winner while Carl Breeze, Dan Eagling and Oliver Oakes have all represented the region as past finalists.