Sport

Mercedes sign local 18-year-old driver

Many of the teams currently on the Formula One grid have a strong youth driver programme, including Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes. Over time these teams have produced some of the names that have become current greats of the sport.

Sebastian Vettel is a product of the Red Bull young driver programme, and Lewis Hamilton was scouted by McLaren from a very young age. Recently, Mercedes have got involved in the business of developing drivers, and drivers such as Valteri Bottas, Pascal Werhlein and Esteban Ocon are products of the Mercedes young drivers programme.

Their most recent signing however has yet to make a name for himself in the world of Formula One. George Russell, 18, from Kings Lynn has become the latest driver to sign for the Silver Arrows.

He earned his place after attracting the attention of the current world champions during an impressive performance in last year’s European Formula Three category, in which he finished third, taking three pole positions, two wins, ten podium finishes and five fastest laps. This was enough to grant him a seat in GP3, the third rung down in the Formula One ladder, driving for the prestigious ART Motorsport team.

Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff said: “George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we’ve been keeping a close eye on him for a while now. It’s still early days in his career but we see great potential in him.”

This is potential that Russell must live up to, for current drivers Esteban Ocon and Valterri Bottas both won the GP3 series on their way to Formula One.

That aside, his Formula One career could be closer now than he had ever thought possible, with several drivers on the current grid having been promoted directly from this category, including Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat.

This move by Mercedes shows the significance of the young driver programmes currently being employed by the top teams in Formula One.

At least twelve of the drivers on the grid next year will have been given their debuts in Formula One by coming through the top teams’ young driver programmes, with several others currently signed on for the future.

It will be fascinating to watch Russell’s career develop and hopefully in a few years’ time he’ll be alongside established names of the sport. Russell recently spoke to BBC Radio Norfolk, telling them: “it’s a dream come true.” The teenager added: “the real hard work starts now.”

The new Formula One season begins at the Australia’s Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on 26th March, which was won by Nico Rosberg in 2016.

04/02/2017

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andrewmackenzie



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