Mercedes youngster George Russell will makes his Formula 1 race weekend debut when he drives for Force India in FP1 at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Russell – who won the GP3 championship with more than a round to spare this season – will be in Sergio Perez’s car at Interlagos on Friday morning as Mercedes looks to give him his first taste of an F1 weekend. Russell drove the current car for Mercedes during the in-season test at the Hungaroring earlier this year but will make his appearance in Brazil for Force India, the team that runs fellow Mercedes prospect Esteban Ocon.
The 19-year-old will then take over Ocon’s car in Abu Dhabi – where he will also race in GP3 – as he drives in FP1 at each of the final two races of the season.
“I’m extremely excited to be driving in free practice for Sahara Force India in Brazil and Abu Dhabi,” Russell said. “2017 has already been a year full of great opportunities and to top off the season with these two outings feels fantastic. I’ve never driven the VJM10 before or driven at Interlagos, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sahara Force India for this opportunity and also thank Mercedes for their continued support.”
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya says Russell has already been involved with the team this season and admits the team’s constructors’ championship position allows it to give the Briton an opportunity in the car.
“We are happy to give George this opportunity,” Mallya said. “He’s an up-and-coming talent and we’ve followed his success in GP3 closely. George has already been in our simulator several times and has worked well with the team. Now that we have secured fourth place in the championship, it’s the ideal time to look to the future and handing George his free practice debut will allow us to evaluate his potential.”
Russell is expected to move up to Formula 2 in 2018, remaining with the ART Grand Prix team with which he won this year’s GP3 title.