Williams Formula 1 driver George Russell has revealed he was on the verge of joining BMW as a full-time DTM driver, only to be approached to join Mercedes’ junior programme.
Russell received the call from Mercedes’ newly appointed Driver Development Advisor, Gwen Lagrue, in 2016, when he was racing in Formula 3.
“I’d actually been unofficially the reserve driver for BMW in DTM,” Russell said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast. “I did a rookie test with them and that went incredibly well, and I was on the verge of signing a full-time race seat deal with them in the DTM [for 2017].
“By this point, I’d sort of accepted I didn’t have any backing to help me get to Formula 1.
“At the time, none of the Formula 1 teams were overly interested and I was pretty settled to say, this is DTM, it was a huge salary, it’s probably the next best thing to Formula 1 and I was committed to going down that route.”
Russell’s career path then changed when Lagrue called the Briton while he was having a bath in his parents’ house.
“One day I was just laying in the bath and I got a phone call from a French guy called Gwen Lagrue… He said to me, ‘Hi George… I’ve just started working with Mercedes and you’re the first guy I want to sign.’
“And that’s where it started, in the bath back in 2016!
“The conversations were ongoing, I signed a contract that started in 2016, and officially became a driver at the start of 2017.”
After joining Mercedes’ ranks, Russell captured the GP3 and F2 titles before graduating to F1 with Williams in 2019.