skysports - 10/12/2018 11:33:49 AM - GMT (+2 )
Last Updated: 12/10/18 10:29am
George Russell has signed with Williams for the F1 2019 season.
Williams have confirmed that the 20-year-old Brit, a Mercedes protege who is leading the F2 championship, will form one half of their driver line-up but have not yet revealed his team-mate.
I've dreamed of this moment for as long as I can remember...October 12, 2018
Sergey Sirotkin and Robert Kubica are the front-runners for the other seat.
Russell's move means there will be at least three Englishmen in F1 next year, with the 20-year-old joining Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris, who will also be a rookie, on the grid.
Williams will be hoping for a drastic improvement next season after a dismal 2018, and have utilised their Mercedes partnership to scoop a highly-rated member of the Silver Arrows' young driver academy.
Their decision has, however, seemingly closed another avenue for Esteban Ocon next year, with the Grove team believed to be favouring either current driver Sirotkin or reserve Kubica to partner Russell.
Ocon, set to leave Force India despite an impressive two years, had been in talks with Williams but they are unlikely to sign two Mercedes-affiliated drivers for 2019.
There are now just four seats up for grabs.on next year's grid.
Lance Stroll, who currently drives for Williams alongside Sirotkin, is expected to join Force India next year after his father led a buy-out of the team.
The rise of Russell
Russell enjoyed plenty of success in the junior categories even before he was signed to the Mercedes programme in January 2017 - but it's fair to say his career has taken off since then.
The Briton won the GP3 Series at the first attempt, and now leads the F2 championship by 37 points with just two races remaining despite fierce pressure from Alexander Albon and McLaren's Norris.
If he holds to win the title, Russell will join Charles Leclerc (2017) as well as, going back to when F2 was called GP2, Nico Rosberg (2005), Lewis Hamilton (2006) and Nico Hulkenberg (2009) as drivers to have won that series in their rookie year.
He has also impressed in an F1 car before.
Russell took part in two practice sessions with Force India at the end of last season, not finishing far behind his team-mate on both outings, while he has also had four official F1 test days with Mercedes, all at the Hungaroring.
The pressure will be on Russell once he joins the grid; not only because Ocon has lost out on a seat but also because Leclerc, the last F2 champion heading into F1, has passed his rookie year test with flying colours and has earned a promotion at Ferrari for 2019.
But there's no reason to suggest Russell won't be fighting Leclerc at the front of the field in a Mercedes soon enough...
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