Russell joins Williams for 2019
George Russell will make his Formula One debut next season and become the third British driver on the grid, after signing a “multi-year contract” with Williams. The Mercedes driver currently leads the Formula Two championship ahead of next months Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Speaking to BBC News Russell said, “I feel on top of the world. It has been a lifelong dream to make it to F1 ever since I started racing when I was seven. It was a long road. Suddenly it’s here and it just feels amazing.”
Russell said that he would remain a Mercedes young driver but added: “As of 2019, I am fully contracted to Williams and that is my 100% full focus.”
Deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “We have always tried to promote and develop young talent at Williams, and George fits that ethos perfectly. He is already highly regarded in the paddock and a driver whose career we have been watching for a while.”
Russell believes after two years with Mercedes he is “extremely well prepared” after two years on the young driver’s programme. Adding “I have been very fortunate with the guidance and opportunity Mercedes have given me over the past two years.”
Russell has also tested for Mercedes and Force India, he has been trusted as a simulator and development driver, as well as being mentored by four times champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Williams is currently enduring their worst-ever season and are poised to finish last in the constructors’ championship. Russell said he believed the team were making “a number of changes in the factory” to return to higher levels of performance, after a “tough” season.
His teammate hasn’t been announced, although it is widely expected that he is replacing Lance Stroll. Stroll’s father Lawrence, now heads the consortium which owns Force India, its expected that Lance is leaving the team at the end of the year to join Force India.
While his teammate could be fighting to retain his seat as reserve driver Robert Kubica could make a comeback. Sirotkin’s performances have not made a compelling case for him to be retained and the team are considering whether there might be better options.
Williams crazy not to consider Ocon
Williams’s deputy team principal Claire Williams says her team would be “crazy” not to consider Esteban Ocon to fill the teams’ second seat. Today the team confirmed that Mercedes driver George Russell would join the team on a multiyear deal.
However, the team hasn’t announced the second driver who will drive alongside the Englishman as they continue to look at their options, with Sergey Sirotkin and Robert Kubica look to be the favourites. It’s expected that Lance Stroll will replace Ocon at Force India after his father lead the consortium which brought the team
Speaking to Sky Sports, Ms Williams said “We are still doing a lot of evaluation work. It’s a short short-list. We’re very happy with the drivers we are evaluating and it will not take us a long time to make that final decision. Of course, Esteban is in the mix. We would be crazy not to be looking at him.”
Sirotkin has struggled to match his teammate Stroll this season, after beating Kubica to the seat last year. Williams is unlikely to sign a driver from another manufacturer.
Two months ago, McLaren admitted Ocon’s relationship with Mercedes was a factor in their decision to appoint Lando Norris as Stoffel Vandoorne’s replacement
Williams also moved to reject suggestions that the announcement means that the team has strengthened its relationship with Mercedes, insisting that it was talent alone which earned him the seat.
Vandoorne could head to Formula E
Autosport says that it has learnt that Stoffel Vandoorne will move to the Mercedes backed HWA Formula E team for 2018/19. The season begins in Riyadh the week after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The magazine says they understand that Vandoorne has sampled FE machinery via simulation runs and impressed HWA with his performance. HWA is believed to be the precursor to a works Mercedes team for 2019/20.
HWA/Venturi has already announced that Susie Wolff, the wife of Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal, as Venturi’s team principal for this season. The team has already revealed that DTM racer Gary Paffett will drive one of its Venturi-powered cars in season five.
A spokesperson has told the magazine that the team will reveal its second FE driver on Monday, adding “Stoffel is on the short list”.
Honda making good progress – Horner
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner believes that future engine supplier, Honda, has made good progress and has a large amount of resource has already been invested in the 2019 car.
Red Bull are parting with Renault after more than a decade, that is despite Honda not delivering as much performance as the French manufacturer. The team destined to finish a distant third in this year’s constructors’ championship.
The Austrian team has made the decision as they were fed up with the performance and reliability of the Renault power unit, they announced that they would ditch Renault for Honda. They are hoping to be able to fight with Mercedes and Ferrari next season.
The Spec-3, the latest upgrade was introduced at the Japanese Grand Prix looks to be the biggest step in four years, with Horner hopes more will follow next year. He told ESPN “It’s obvious that progress, and good progress, is being made and that’s really encouraging for us.”
“Our focus is not on where our current position is, it’s where the lead position is. That’s the same goal that Honda share. You need all elements to be performing to win in this sport, and of course, the engine is a key element.”
No revision to points system but a new curfew
Formula One will not introduce a revised point system after they considered extending the number of points scorers. The Strategy Group discussed ways of awarding points to all the cars, with a compromise of the top fifteen.
While discussions are on-going, it will not be introduced for next season. FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting confirmed that “it is something that if everybody had agreed to, we would look at introducing it [in] 2019”.
This means F1 will persevere with only rewarding the top 10 with points on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 basis, as it has since 2010. One change that will be implemented, but for 2020 and not next season, is regarding the team’s curfew.
The curfew will be extended from eight to nine hours, meaning that teams will get less time to prepare the car. The curfew, originally just six hours, was introduced for the 2011 season to cut down the working hours of team personnel.
Teams are allowed two individual exceptions to this rule over the year.
Verstappen forbidden from Moto GP test
Max Verstappen says that Red Bull has forbid him from trying out a Moto GP bike, on grounds it would be “too dangerous.” The Dutchman has previously expressed an interest in trying a Moto GP bike.
Speaking to F1 Racing last year, Verstappen said: “I’d like to try MotoGP. When I was eight years old I used to race on two wheels as well as four. I really liked it.”
“It was a bit more dangerous, of course, but absolutely I would like to try it. MotoGP is a different world but I like the feeling of getting close to the ground with your knees in the corners.” Now the Dutchman has said he requested a ride with Red Bull-backed KTM but was turned down.
Speaking at a sponsor event, Verstappen said “I would love to be able to race on two wheels, I’m not allowed to. I bought myself a Harley[-Davidson bike] and I asked the team if I could try a MotoGP bike.”
“Because Red Bull are a sponsor there as well, with KTM and Honda. And we have a track, the Red Bull Ring. But they firmly said no, because it’s too dangerous.”
Its common for Moto GP riders to test F1 cars, but its not common for F1 drivers to test bikes. However, McLaren driver Fernando Alonso did trial the Honda RCV213 MotoGP bike on two occasions, during the annual Honda ‘Thanks Day’ in 2015 and 2016.
The Week Ahead
Next week, Formula One heads to Texas for the US Grand Prix, this is going to be a big week for both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton, we know will face questions like ‘can you win the title this weekend?’ Yes he can, but you need to say he will play that down like Vettel will play the ‘it’s not over card.’
America is a huge market for F1 and the manufacturers, with that in mind we need to think that we will see marketing opportunities for all the teams maximised. Hamilton is arguably the biggest name in the US, so they will be pushing him to market the sport, also we are on the Mexican Border so maybe support for Sergio Perez.
Haas will want a good result at their home race, this is a type circuit they have gone well at this season. They will want to maximise their weekend in front of there home crowd, but the Americas I feel will focus on the championship fight.
Expect another round of driver announcements, the next key ‘announcement’ will be Lance Stroll moving to Force India. It is not confirmed but with his father owning the team, it seems impossible for him not to go there.