George Russell has the potential to follow in Charles Leclerc’s footsteps and become a front-running driver in Formula 1 but will be given time to develop at Williams, says Paddy Lowe.
Leclerc won the Formula 2 championship in 2017 and then duly excelled at Sauber, enjoying a very impressive debut season that earned him a promotion to Ferrari next year. In Russell (pictured at right with teammate Robert Kubica), Williams has promoted the man who superseded Leclerc as F2 drivers’ champion, and chief technical officer Lowe sees similar potential in the Briton but says he is willing to give the rookie time to get comfortable after making the step up.
“We have a different driver combination for next year which is actually incredibly exciting,” Lowe told RACER. “George is one of the best prospective talents I think for Formula 1 that’s around at the moment. We’ve seen Charles this year come through from winning Formula 2 and I’m hoping we’ll see a similar star class capability coming from George.
“But we should be patient around that. What I have seen over the years is different drivers take a different amount of time to get to grips with Formula 1 — some are slower and some are quicker, and it doesn’t actually indicate where they will arrive once they settle down.
“So we’re not going into next season with any particular expectations for George, except that in the long term we think he’s going to be one of the leading drivers of the sport.”
Russell won the GP3 championship in 2017 before taking last year’s F2 title, and moves up to F1 alongside last year’s main rivals Lando Norris — who will race for McLaren — and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon.
Lowe was at McLaren when Lewis Hamilton made his F1 debut after winning the feeder series — then called GP2 — and hopes that experience will help him manage Russell’s first year alongside Robert Kubica.
“I was fortunate enough to work with Lewis in his first season, coming in as a rookie, so I know some of the challenges around that,” he said. “It will be very interesting to see how it goes with George.”