F1’s grid for 2019 has edged closer to completion with the news Mercedes reserve driver George Russell will make his race debut with Williams next season.
Russell, who has driven in two FP1 sessions for Force India and four tests for Mercedes, will take Lance Stroll’s seat at Williams with his team mate yet to be announced.
Mercedes have been pushing to find Russell, the reigning GP3 champion who joined the Mercedes junior programme at the start of 2017, a seat on the grid next year following an impressive season in Formula 2.
The Briton leads the F2 title race by 37 points from Alexander Albon with only 48 available in next month’s finale in Abu Dhabi.
Russell will be the first British driver to race full-time for Williams since Jenson Button in 2000 and will be just 21 when he lines up on the grid in Melbourne, Australia next March.
“We have always tried to promote and develop young talent at Williams, and George fits that ethos perfectly,” said Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams.
“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.”
News of Russell’s multi-year agreement was delivered to staff at the team’s UK factory on Friday morning with the Briton having a chance to meet some of the people he’ll be working with next year.
“It is a huge honour to join a team of Williams’ prestige and heritage,” said Russell. “Formula 1 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 would like to thank Claire and everyone at Williams for their faith in making this decision, as well as Toto (Wolff) and the team at Mercedes for their fantastic support throughout GP3 and Formula 2.
“I am incredibly excited to start working with everyone at Grove and to take my first steps as a Formula 1 race driver. I cannot wait for Melbourne next year and to join Williams at the start of this exciting part of their journey.”