Jack Aitken will be the Williams reserve driver in 2020 and make his Friday Formula 1 practice debut after leaving a similar position at Renault.
On Monday the 24-year-old confirmed he would be leaving Renault, where he had been test and reserve driver for the past two seasons. Heading into this year, RACER understands the need to bring financial backing was discussed with Renault, while an offer from Williams did not include such a requirement and also promised at least one FP1 session to correlate work between the 2020 car and simulator.
“It is a great honor to join ROKiT Williams Racing as their reserve driver for the 2020 season,” Aitken said. “Williams is a team with strong heritage, and continued longevity, and I’m looking forward to directly contributing to their development through my simulator and testing work.”
Speaking of his Renault exit, Aitken says it was a tough decision to leave Enstone, having joined the team’s driver academy in 2016.
“It’s not a decision I took lightly, not at all,” he wrote on social media. “There are so many memories, and indeed people, at Enstone that will forever be highlights of my life.
“When I joined four years ago, I was completely overwhelmed trying to remember 600+ faces and failing spectacularly at not being the excited new kid! But what welcomed me was not only a top-tier team who taught me a huge amount about going racing, but a stellar bunch of guys and gals. It was impossible to leave the factory without a smile or laugh in the day somewhere.
“Renault was also the place where I stepped into F1 machinery, old and contemporary, for the very first time. I’ll forever be grateful for the faith shown in letting me loose in those machines. I can’t do this without saying thank you to the man himself, Cyril (Abiteboul, managing director), and Mia (Sharizman, academy director) for guiding me these last four years. I wish those at the academy and Renault all the best in the future.”
While any 2020 race plans are still unconfirmed, Aitken could return to Formula 2 in combination with the Williams role, having finished fifth in the drivers’ championship with three wins last season. Aitken was runner-up to current Williams driver George Russell in GP3 in 2017 and deputy team principal Claire Williams says the team is excited by his potential.
“It is obvious from what Jack has achieved so far he is a young driver with a great career ahead of him, and we believe he has the right credentials to reach the top in the sport,” Williams said. “Jack has proved his ability in FIA Formula 2 and GP3 and we look forward to seeing what he can achieve as the team’s official reserve driver.”