Claire Williams believes George Russell has all the ingredients to become a Formula One world champion – and will not stand in his way if Mercedes call on him to partner Lewis Hamilton next year.
Russell, the British driver from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, is set to tackle his second season in the sport following a strong debut campaign.
The 22-year-old is on the books at Mercedes and – after the sport’s all-conquering team allowed Esteban Ocon to leave their programme to join Renault – Russell is now effectively first in line to be seated alongside Hamilton if Valtteri Bottas is moved on at the end of the year.
In the second season of the recently-released Netflix docuseries, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, Russell is seen urging Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to put him in his car.
“George has a very clear ambition,” Williams, de facto team principal for the British outfit, told the PA news agency.
“He wants to be a Formula One world champion, and I firmly believe he will.
“George is such an instrumental part of this team, and I want to give him a car so he doesn’t look elsewhere. He has a long-term contract with us and I would expect to see him in a Williams car until that contract expires.
“But Mercedes is Mercedes, and I never want to stand in the way of giving a driver a great opportunity, if our team is not in a competitive position.”
Russell won virtually every championship he entered before arriving in F1, beating both McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull driver Alex Albon in the sport’s feeder series, Formula Two in 2018.
But he spent much of his inaugural year in F1 competing for second-from-last in his uncompetitive Williams machinery.
Russell enhanced his credentials by completing an impressive qualifying whitewash over Williams team-mate Robert Kubica – a driver Hamilton described as the best of their generation before a 2011 rally crash curtailed the Pole’s career.
“George has the whole package,” added Williams. “He looks like an unassuming, nice guy, but he has a layer of steel within him which he has been taught by his parents.
“He hasn’t had a silver motor racing spoon in his mouth since he was born. He hasn’t had it easy, and the family haven’t had it easy to get him to this point either. He is fairly similar to Lewis Hamilton in that sense.
“When you don’t have it gifted to you, it makes you hungry, it makes you fight.
“That brings a certain edge to a driver, but George also understands that it doesn’t just take a natural talent to achieve that.
“He can always learn, always grow and build. He is only 22 and he has a very long career ahead of him in this sport.”
Russell will have a new team-mate this season after Kubica’s comeback lasted just one year.
Canadian Nicholas Latifi occupies the second Williams seat for the new campaign which begins in Melbourne next Sunday.