George Russell makes good impressions. A well-handled first meeting with Toto Wolff ultimately yielded a spot in the Mercedes driver programme and a phone call helped him get his gig with Williams this year. Wolff reckons he’s seen enough already to convince him that Russell is destined for big things…
Russell took 11 podiums, of which seven were victories, on his way to the F2 championship last season, adding that accolade to the GP3 crown he accrued the previous year and dovetailing those racing duties with the reserve role at Mercedes – as part of his responsibilities in the Mercedes junior programme.
He then topped off his 2018 by securing a path to F1, signing a multi-year deal with Williams to race alongside the returning Robert Kubica, as the iconic British team fields an all-new line-up.
He has the brain, he has the empathy, the social skills and the driving
It’s an impressive ascent and one that proves a proactive approach can pay dividends.
“My first encounter with George was when he was 15 or 16 years old, and he asked me for a meeting,” said Wolff. “I really enjoy meeting those young kids full of dreams. He came in a black suit and a tie with a notebook, and he said I’ve just won I think it was the F4 title in British F4, and I’m considering doing F3.
“My feeling is that I should be staying with a British team because I’m very young and I understand Carlin, and would that close the Mercedes door for me if I’m not on a Mercedes engine in F3 in my first year?
“It was such a reflective question from a 15 year old or 16 year old, it was really amazing. So he has the brain, he has the empathy, the social skills and the driving.
“I can only repeat what Sebastien Philippe [Russell’s boss at ART] told me. He said he’s one of the best we’ve ever had within our team. I think we might have another young British boy here that can become a star in the future.”
F2: George Russell's road to the championship