Norfolk’s F1 legacy continues as Mercedes starlet George Russell handed grand prix chance
PUBLISHED: 17:27 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:03 08 November 2017
Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
Norfolk’s Mercedes starlet George Russell will take a major step closer to his F1 dream at the weekend, after earning time with Force India for the final grands prix of the year.
The highly-rated 19-year-old driver from Wisbech will make his debut for the Silverstone-based Formula 1 team during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend, by driving Sergio Perez’s VJM10 for Friday’s opening free practice session.
Russell will then repeat the trick in a fortnight’s time, this time for FP1 of the season-ending Abu Dhabi weekend in the car of Perez’s Force India team-mate, Esteban Ocon.
Russell signed to world champions Mercedes as part of their junior driver programme at the start of the year and has already driven the title-winning constructors’ 2017 car, the W08 that helped take fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton to his fourth world title.
That was during the in-season test around Hungaroring at the start of the mid-season break, where Russell completed more than 100 laps and finished the day an eye-catchingly fourth quickest on the coattails of Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
“I’m extremely excited to be driving in free practice for Sahara Force India in Brazil and Abu Dhabi,” said Russell.
“This has already been a year full of great opportunities and to top off the season with these two outings feels fantastic.
“I’ve never driven the VJM10 before or driven at Interlagos, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I would like to say a big thank you to Sahara Force India for this opportunity and also thank Mercedes for their continued support.”
Russell had a stellar season, claiming the 2017 GP3 championship and looking primed to move up a level into Formula 2 for 2018 – possibly with a team in ART that could challenge for honours again, in what is widely considered F1’s primary feeder series.
That is all off the back of taking the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2014, becoming the youngest winner of the title.
Force India’s engines are supplied by Mercedes and team principal Vijay Mallya added: “We are happy to give George this opportunity.
“He’s an up-and-coming talent and we’ve followed his success in GP3 closely. George has already been in our simulator several times and has worked well with the team. Now that we have secured fourth place in the championship, it’s the ideal time to look to the future and handing George his free practice debut will allow us to evaluate his potential.”
Norfolk has a long history in Formula 1 through Hethel-based Team Lotus, winning multiple world titles and helping provide a wider breeding ground for top motorsport talent such as Ayrton Senna, Mark Webber and Martin Brundle.
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