Russell on brink of 2018 Reserve Driver role with Force India

by Paul Hensby

The Sahara Force India F1 Team remain hopeful of securing George Russell as their third driver for the 2018 Formula 1 season, and are also looking at the Briton as a long term prospect.

The Silverstone-based team gave the Mercedes-Benz protégé his free practice debut in the recent Brazilian Grand Prix in place of Sergio Perez, and deputy team principal Robert Fernley hopes the 2017 GP3 Series champion will have the opportunity to become a full-time addition to the Force India team in 2018 as reserve driver to Perez and Esteban Ocon.

“I don’t see any reason why [he will not get the reserve role],” said Fernley to “The main thing is to make sure the availability is there longer term. It’s not a short term thing.

“It’s a win-win for Mercedes and ourselves. The same thing happened with Esteban. They happen to have a driver that is under contract and it fits in with our programme and it fits in with theirs. That is not always the case.

“We’ve been very lucky with both Esteban and now possibly George.”

Fernley was full of praise for Russell’s performance during his Brazilian Grand Prix practice session, with the Briton experiencing both the car and the circuit for the first time and doing a respectable job to finish twelfth fastest.

“His performance at the weekend was excellent, he settled in very nicely,” said Fernley. “We can learn quite a bit from that [running] and it’s not just that but the simulator programmes as well.

“What he does in the simulator translates onto the track and we can make the comparisons across the board. He hasn’t spent a huge amount of time in the simulator, but enough for us to be able to get a good picture on him.

“He had never been to the track in Brazil and never driven the car before. We’re now taking him to Abu Dhabi where he’s done both, and that will be an interesting assessment for him.

“George is a very confident young man, self-assured, confident, charming, a bit Esteban like in many ways.”

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