The 18-year-old Briton sealed third place in the 2016 European Formula 3 Championship, with Mercedes-Benz powering him to a total of three pole positions, two wins, ten podium finishes and five fastest race laps along the way.
“George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we’ve been keeping a close eye on him for a while now,” said Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Toto Wolff. “It’s still early days in his career but we see great potential in him.”
For 2017, Russell will compete in the GP3 Series with ART Grand Prix, following in the footsteps of Ocon - now with Force India - and newly-announced Mercedes racer Valtteri Bottas - both of whom won this championship en route to F1.
“George’s next challenge in GP3 will provide a good test of his credentials for the future,” continued Wolff. “We have already seen with Esteban how effective this series can be as a training ground and, of course, this is the championship which propelled Valtteri into Formula One, so we will follow George’s progress with great interest.”
Commenting on the news, Russell said: “It’s great to be part of the Junior Programme. It is an incredibly opportunity to have the backing of the Formula One World Champions. I’m proud to have been given this kind of recognition for all the hard work that’s gone into my career over the years so far.”
With the first pre-season test for the 2017 GP3 Series still a number of weeks away, Russell is keen to maximise his time at Mercedes’ UK base in Brackley in the interim.
“I’ve started doing some work with the team in the simulator and it’s already become clear to me that I’m working with people who are the best in the business, who I know will help me develop as a driver and as a person,” concluded Russell.
“Of course, my priority is to get the job done over the coming season in GP3 and I’m fully focused on that. But this opportunity is a huge motivation and I’m looking forward to the challenge. It should be an exciting year ahead.”
Russell, from King’s Lynn in Norfolk, won the BRDC Formula 4 Championship in 2014.