George Russell sees Esteban Ocon’s career progression at Force India as an example for him to try and follow as he looks to secure a Formula 1 seat in the future.
Mercedes helped Ocon test for Force India in 2015 and later secure a race seat at Manor in 2016, with his impressive performances leading him to be chosen as Nico Hulkenberg’s replacement at Force India last season. With the Frenchman having a strong first full year with the team, Mercedes has also helped Russell get further F1 experience courtesy of two Friday practice outings for Force India at the end of 2017.
Asked if fellow Mercedes youngster Ocon is a role model for him as he is following a similar path, Russell replied: “A little bit.
“I think Mercedes saw it more than I did to be honest. What they’ve done with him has been great, bringing him through the ranks from GP3 upwards really, and obviously put him with Force India after he did a great job in test sessions with them.
“They know that Force India is a great place for any young driver to start their career. They wanted to give me the opportunity to drive, and if I’m doing a good enough job, Force India will recognize it and hopefully one day, 2019 is the day I’m hoping, is when they turn around and say ‘we want you as our race driver.'”
And Russell hopes he will get more Friday outings in 2018 but wants to concentrate on an expected Formula 2 title challenge as he hints that championship success will guarantee him an F1 race seat.
“I hope that’s the plan,” Russell said of more Friday practice appearances. “Certainly talking with Mercedes, I think we’re fairly pleased with what I’ve been doing at the end of this year. Obviously again my main priority will be Formula 2 next year, and this all came about because we had sealed the championship already in GP3.
“I don’t want anything to overlap because I’m quite aware that if I win Formula 2 next year, I’ll be given the opportunity the following year to drive in F1. But if I perform really well in FP1 sessions but don’t perform so well in Formula 2, it makes my cause a little bit more difficult. I just need to get my priorities right.”