George Russell has vowed to grab his Mercedes opportunity with both hands after his partnership with Lewis Hamilton was finally announced.
The 23-year-old driver from Norfolk will team up with Hamilton at the Silver Arrows from next season after signing a long-term contract with the world champions.
Russell was told last month by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff that he would be replacing Valtteri Bottas – the Finn departing for Alfa Romeo after five years alongside Hamilton.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton wanted Bottas to stay but said on Tuesday that Russell had earned his seat.
“It’s a special day for me personally and professionally,” said Russell.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands.
“But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 7, 2021
“I want to do my new team-mates proud. Of course, one of those new team-mates is – in my opinion – the greatest driver of all time.
“I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being.”
Hamilton accompanied his social media welcome with a picture taken in 2010 when Russell visited Hamilton’s McLaren headquarters.
It’s official. Next year, I’ll be a Mercedes F1 driver. This is a special day for me and I want to say a huge thank you to @WilliamsRacing, @MercedesAMGF1 and everyone who has supported me in getting to where I am today. I couldn’t have done it without every single one of you. 💙 pic.twitter.com/MmGA1vr9mR
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) September 7, 2021
Hamilton presented Russell, then 12, with a TAG Heuer watch and signed helmet as a reward for winning the Formula Kart Stars Championship.
Hamilton, 36, said: “I want to take a moment to welcome George Russell to the team.
“I remember meeting him when he was young, dreaming of one day being a Formula One driver. I’d only just reached my own dream of becoming an F1 driver, so I know what this day means and how it will feel for him.
“He is a great example to all the kids out there that dreams do come true when you chase them wholeheartedly.
I want to take a moment to welcome @GeorgeRussell63 to the team. Through hard work he has rightly earned his spot. I look forward to seeing him grow as a driver with this great team and working with him to raise @MercedesAMGF1 higher. See you next year🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/CRsgrilmUd
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 7, 2021
“Through hard work he has rightly earned his spot on our team. I look forward to seeing him grow as a driver with this great team and working with him to raise Mercedes higher. See you next year.”
Mercedes junior driver Russell’s transfer to take up the hottest seat in F1 comes after three seasons with Williams, and a hugely-impressive stand-in display for a Covid-hit Hamilton in Bahrain last December.
Russell, from King’s Lynn, also produced a memorable qualifying lap to put his uncompetitive Williams on the front row of the grid for last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, duly taking second following the two-lap race run behind the safety car.
George Russell knows how to win 🥇
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 7, 2021
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff vowed never to place two alpha drivers together following Hamilton’s fractious relationship with Nico Rosberg.
But Bottas’ decline and Russell’s emergence as a world champion in waiting, has forced his hand.
The Austrian said: “We are very happy to confirm that George will have the opportunity to take the next step in his career.
“He has been a winner in every racing category and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1.
“I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years ahead.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders to have our plans for 2022 clear and announced.”