Britain’s George Russell has been officially announced as a Williams driver for the 2019 Formula 1 season in a multi-year deal.
George Russell, 2018 F2 champion elect, needing just the equivalent of two top five finishes at the season finale at Abu Dhabi to seal the title, has spent the season as Mercedes AMG-Petronas Motorsport F1 driver, and is likely to use his time at Williams as a test-bed for a Mercedes Formula 1 drive in future.
“I am incredibly excited to start working with everyone at Grove and to take my first steps as a Formula 1 race driver.” said George Russell on being announced as a Williams driver.
He continued: “I cannot wait for Melbourne next year and to join Williams at what we all believe will be the start of an exciting new journey.”
George Russell will replace Racing Point Force India-bound Lance Stroll, who is almost certain to depart Williams once the season ends.
George Russell’s ties with the Mercedes team (he will remain under contract to them) means that the German marque will most likely at least part-fund the deal, either in in cold hard cash, a reduction in the cost to Williams of their supply of Mercedes power units, or in an improvement of their existing deal with more parts and IP coming Williams’ way, in order to give valuable F1 experience to a driver Mercedes see as being a big part of their future.
George Russell will line up on the 2019 F1 grid alongside Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell’s current F2 rival Lando Norris in a McLaren, making a trio of British drivers after a 2018 where Hamilton was the sole bearer of the Union Flag in Formula 1.
Who will partner George Russell is still to be confirmed (it may already have been decided!) but it looks like the main contenders are current Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin, Williams F1 reserve driver Robert Kubica, Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon who is without a drive for 2019, and Russian Artem Markelov, currently starring in Formula 2.
Those drivers fall into two distinct camps: Those who bring money to the team (Sirotkin/Markelov), and those who would earn the drive based on talent alone (Ocon/Kubica).
Kubica would undoubtedly be the fans’ choice, but there’s a degree of sentimentality in the desire to see him with a full-time Formula 1 seat after his horrific injury, but the reality of racing the current breed of thoroughbred F1 cars for up to two hours with the disability the Pole carries with him might be enough to get in the way of him landing the drive.
The decision to opt for Ocon or one of the two heavily backed Russians could come down to finances: If Williams feel it’s sustainable to employ the highly-rated and F1-ready Ocon, and don’t need the cash injection one of the two Russians would inevitably bring to the team, then we might see Ocon line up alongside Russell and we might have ourselves a Grand Prix team!
Brilliant news for George Russell, for Williams – that the finances allowed them to get the deal done and for us Williams fans too, with a real top prospect in the car for the 2019 season.
Let’s hope Williams can secure the services of Esteban Ocon to drive their other car, when we can legitimately say, in the words of one outgoing (and outspoken!) F1 star…
‘Now we can fight!’