George Russell: F1 teams waking up to young talent

George Russell says that Formula 1 teams are “starting to recognise” the level of competition in junior series, following the 2018/19 driver market overhaul.

Red Bull will field two youngsters in the form of Max Verstappen, already a multiple race winner, and Pierre Gasly, the 2016 GP2 champion who raced for Toro Rosso this year.

Ferrari, meanwhile, has opted to recruit long-term protégé Charles Leclerc after just one year in Formula 1 with Sauber, having stepped up off the back of successive titles in GP3 and Formula 2.

Russell emulated Leclerc’s achievements in the respective categories and will graduate to Formula 1 with Williams, while nearest opponents Lando Norris (McLaren) and Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) will also be on the grid.

“I think the Formula 1 teams are starting to recognise the level in junior motorsport,” said Russell.

“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.”

Russell also heaped praise on Albon in the wake of the Anglo-Thai securing a Formula 1 seat with Toro Rosso.

Albon only started 2018 on a round-by-round Formula 2 deal, amid budgetary concerns, but was the sole driver who took Russell to a last-event title decider.

“I’m really happy for him,” said Russell on Albon.

“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.

“Obviously he doesn’t have any Formula 1 experience at the moment, but I really think come the end of the year [in 2019], he’ll be able to put in some really good performances.

“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.”