Williams driver George Russell says the number of promotions from Formula 2 into Formula 1 in 2019 shows the quality of the new generation of rookies.
Russell, who won the F2 championship last season, will race alongside Robert Kubica, while Lando Norris and Alexander Albon will also debut this year for McLaren and Toro Rosso respectively. 2019 marks the first time the top three from F2 — or its previous guise of GP2 — have been promoted to F1 at the same time, which Russell says shows how good the current crop are.
“I think the Formula 1 teams are starting to recognize the level in junior motorsport,” Russell said. “I think we’ve all been very lucky, especially myself and Lando, to be around a Formula 1 team for a couple of years now, and going to the races, and we learn a huge amount. Of course you always get quicker and when you gain experience, you just become more knowledgeable. I think this generation of drivers is a very, very good one.”
With Albon only being confirmed at Toro Rosso after the last race of 2018, Russell warns it would be unfair to expect too much of the 22-year-old early on in his F1 career.
“I’m really happy for him. He’s a really great driver. He’s had probably not the easiest junior career, but he is no doubt a great driver and deserves this opportunity. I think after a few races, as obviously he doesn’t have any Formula 1 experience at the moment, but I really think come the end of the year, he’ll be able to put in some really good performances.”
Russell has previously been teammates with new Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in karts and admits it’s surprising to have progressed to F1 with so many of his past rivals.
“When you’re aiming for Formula 1, you don’t expect that you’re going to be racing the exact same guys you were racing all those years ago.
“I think I’ve raced six or seven (now F1) drivers in previous years, so it’s quite a strange feeling to be honest that you always progress with the same drivers. I think this group of drivers are extremely talented and really quick bunch of drivers, so I think hopefully we’ll be here for a number of years to come.”