George Russell to race for Williams next season

F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Final Practice

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.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Practice

“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 known. Russian Sergey Sirotkin currently occupies the other seat.

It was thought Esteban Ocon was in the running to replace Stroll and it is now looking even more likely that young driver, also on Mercedes' books, will have to sit out the 2019 season.

Nevertheless, he was among the first to react to the news of Russell's big break on Twitter and posted a classy congratulatory message.

He wrote: "Congratulations to @GeorgeRussell63 for his @F1 promotion ! Well deserved, and great news for our sport ! @WilliamsRacing @MercedesAMGF1"

Ocon has impressed with Force India this season, and even though he may not feature in the sport next year, many feel he still has a very bright future in F1.

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