England’s George Russell is to race for Williams next season after agreeing a multi-year deal with the British Formula One team.
Russell, 20, will follow in the footsteps of 2009 world champion Jenson Button who made his debut for Williams nearly two decades ago.
The highly-rated Russell is the reserve driver for Lewis Hamilton‘s Mercedes team this year, and following Lando Norris’s McLaren promotion, he will now become the second British rookie on the grid in 2019.
Russell is also on the brink of securing the Formula Two championship, the feeder series to F1, following an impressive debut campaign in which he has won six races.
He holds a 37-point title lead with just the season-deciding races in Abu Dhabi to come next month.
“It is a huge honour to join a team of Williams’ prestige and heritage,” Russell, from Kings Lynn in Norfolk, said. “Formula One has been a life-long dream.
“From watching the races when I was a child, it feels surreal that I will now be lining up on the grid, alongside drivers whom I have admired for years.
“I cannot wait for Melbourne next year and to join Williams at the start of what we all believe will be the start of an exciting new journey.”
Russell has tested for Mercedes on several occasions and competed in practice sessions with Force India at last year’s Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.
He will be the first English driver to compete for Williams since Button was handed his debut as a 20-year-old in 2000.
The deputy team principal for Williams, Claire Williams, added: “I am delighted to announce that George Russell will be joining from the 2019 season.
“We have always tried to promote and develop young talent here, and George fits that ethos perfectly.
“He is already highly regarded in the paddock and a driver whose career we have been watching for a while.
“In the time we have spent with him so far, we believe that he will be a great fit for our team; his commitment, passion and dedication is exactly what we need to drive the positive momentum building at Grove as we focus on the future.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, a keen admirer of Russell, will have played an instrumental role in moving him to Williams.
The two teams share a close relationship with Mercedes supplying engines to the Oxfordshire outfit, while Russell has been on the books of the Silver Arrows since the start of last year.
Williams have enjoyed a glorious past, winning a combined 16 drivers’ and constructors’ championships, but they are currently in the midst of a miserable campaign which leaves them rooted to the foot of the team standings with just seven points.
Russell will replace Lance Stroll who is bound for Force India next year after his fashion billionaire father, Lawrence’s takeover of the team.
The identity of Russell’s team-mate for 2019 is not yet know. Russian Sergey Sirotkin currently occupies the other seat.
Lando Norris has not spoken to Lewis Hamilton since his promotion to McLaren’s race team was announced.
Norris, who turns 19 next month, will become Britain’s youngest ever Formula One driver at next season’s curtain raiser in Melbourne, Australia.
The English teenager has followed a similar path to Hamilton, winning the prestigious Formula Three championship last year, while also being hired by McLaren.
He will become the first British rookie to race for the Woking team since Hamilton burst on to the scene nearly a dozen years ago.
“I don’t have Lewis’s number,” Norris said. “I don’t think I have ever spoken to Lewis, maybe once.
Hamilton is on the brink of becoming a five-time world champion after moving 67 points clear of Sebastian
Vettel with just 100 remaining. Indeed, his title coronation could take place in America a week on Sunday.
Norris will join Hamilton as the second British driver on the grid in 2019.
George Russell, the 20-year-old Mercedes junior who is on course to win the Formula Two championship, the feeder series to F1, is hopeful of making it a British trio by joining Williams.
Norris’ promotion was announced after last month’s Italian Grand Prix. He will team up with Carlos Sainz, who is joining the struggling British outfit from Renault.
Norris added: “Life has not changed for me that much. In terms of everything I do here at the track, and everything I do back at the McLaren factory, it is all pretty similar.
“The main thing, is you have more people asking for photographs and autographs.
“I feel more relaxed and that is a big thing, too. For instance, it was nice knowing that when I went out in Japan for practice, it wasn’t like I had to nail this, and nail that, and try and do a really good lap compared to
Stoffel (Vandoorne) or Fernando (Alonso).
“It was a bit more just get out there and do what I do and be more natural.”
A new motorsport series is set to be launched in an attempt to find female Formula 1 stars.
W Series will start in 2019 and has been backed by major names in F1, including 13-time grand prix winner David Coulthard and Red Bull design engineer Adrian Newey.
It will offer a prize fund of US $1.5million and free entry for 18-20 competitors, who will be selected purely on merit following tests and appraisals. The overall winner will collect $500,000, with prize money down to 18th place.
Organisers aim to stage six 30-minute races at top circuits in Europe and future plans could see the series expand to America, Asia and Australia.
“At the heart of W Series’ DNA is the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport. However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation,” organisers said in a statement.
The last woman to start an F1 grand prix was Italy’s Lella Lombardi in 1976, but Coulthard says female drivers can compete with their male counterparts.
“In order to be a successful racing driver, you have to be skilled, determined, competitive, brave and physically fit, but you don’t have to possess the kind of super-powerful strength levels that some sports require. You also don’t have to be a man,” Coulthard told the Daily Mail.
“That’s why we at W Series firmly believe that female and male racing drivers can compete with one another on equal terms given the same opportunity.
“At the moment, however, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent.
“That’s why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required – W Series – to establish a competitive and constructive motorsport habitat in which our drivers will be able to equip themselves with the necessary skill-set eventually to move on up to existing high-level mainstream racing series and compete with the best male drivers on equal terms.”