George Russell: From Formula Renault to Williams Racing

On a mid-autumn morning at the Williams Racing head office in rural Oxfordshire, Clare Williams is sat at the desk.

To her left, nine Constructors’ Championship trophies sit as precious as ever on the cabinet, but Clare is in full knowledge these triumphs are a distant memory as the team sit bottom of the 2018 championship.

A decision is needed to keep the reputation of a once great team alive as she picks up the phone, with one promising star on the receiving end.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing with James Urwin (GBR) Williams Racing Race Engineer. Australian Grand Prix, Friday 15th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing with James Urwin (GBR) Williams Racing Race Engineer.
Australian Grand Prix, Friday 15th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

This star being – at the time – Mercedes Test Driver, George Russell…the two exchanged words and an outcome was confirmed.

It was from autumn onwards that Russell knew he would achieve his childhood dream and become a Formula One driver in 2019 at just 21 years old, but let’s delve into how he got to this point.

His debut and maiden championship

It was in 2014 that Russell marked his single-seater debut competing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps Series – which witnessed him race against current Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc.

Aged 16 racing for Koiranen GP, the Brit secured himself fourth in the championship taking a podium finish in the process, at the Red Bull Ring.

However, it was also during this time that he contested in Formula Four, for Lanan Racing.

George Rusell competing in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship in 2014

George Rusell competing in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship in 2014 – www.mphotographic.co.uk

Competing in this category witnessed his maiden championship, winning the race and title on a dramatic final day – with three other drivers fighting for the crown – as he claimed his fifth victory of that season.

Because of the title win, that year Russell also became the youngest-ever winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, which most notably has the 2009 Formula One World Champion, Jenson Button, as a former winner of the prize.

Mercedes young drivers’ programme and GP3 champion

Following his graduation in 2015 to Formula Three, alongside Charles Leclerc, in two years Russell claimed three victories in the category as he then transferred to GP3 in 2017.

It was at this point of the transfer, that Russell also became part of the Mercedes young drivers programme to work in proximity with the five-time World Champion, Lewis Hamilton.

With such faith invested, it was to shine.

Racing for ART Grand Prix, which has Lewis Hamilton as a former-driver, Russell comfortably won the GP3 title.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing with fans. Australian Grand Prix, Friday 15th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing with fans.
Australian Grand Prix, Friday 15th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Whilst becoming the GP3 champion in 2017, perhaps even more importantly, the chance was consequently provided to compete in a Formula One car during a free practice session on numerous occasions.

For the first practice session of the Brazilian Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Russell showcased his skills in a Force India car.

The pathway to Formula One was becoming ever more evident, especially with what happened next.

Making a name for himself

Whilst becoming the Mercedes Reserve Driver in 2018, Russell stepped up into Formula 2 for ART Grand Prix.

Russell excelled to claim a third title of his youth career.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW42. Australian Grand Prix, Sunday 17th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW42.
Australian Grand Prix, Sunday 17th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Claiming seven victories, all eyes were fixed on the youngster as he shone above the rest, making it only a matter of time before he was given his opportunity in Formula One.

This chance was provided as Williams Racing came knocking, which brings this all to present day.

Following his debut in Australia, Russell is aware it will be a significant challenge to guide the Williams car back up the grid and avoid another ‘disastrous’ season for the team, whilst once again, competing alongside Charles Leclerc.