Russell has had a stellar junior career, winning the GP3 title as a rookie last year and looking on course to do the same in Formula 2 this season. As a Mercedes junior driver it looked like he might end up without an F1 drive for 2019, Esteban Ocon-style, but evidently not with the news that he’ll be joining Williams for 2019. He said of the news:
“It is a huge honour to join a team of Williams’ prestige and heritage. 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 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 what we all believe will be the start of an exciting new journey.”
Russell is the third driver who’ll be a rookie in F1 next year, alongside Lando Norris and Antonio Giovinazzi (OK, Giovinazzi has done a couple of races, but we’re still counting him.)
It means there are just four seats left to fill on next year’s grid. Sergio Perez is expected to stay at Force India with Lance Stroll joining him (given that his dad now owns the team, it’d be weird if he didn’t!), leaving only really the Williams and Toro Rosso seats genuinely available. Will Sergey Sirotkin stay on at Williams, or will the Mercedes connection be enough to get Ocon a seat after all?