Mercedes junior Russell sees Leclerc as a great promoter of young talent

Charles Leclerc’s outstanding performances this season with Sauber will entice teams to trust more young drivers with an F1 drive says Mercedes junior George Russell.

Leclerc’s path to the pinnacle of racing included success in GP3 in 2016 and then a title in Formula 2 last season, milestones that earned the Ferrari junior a seat at Sauber for 2018.

Russell may be on his way to emulating the Monegasque, winning the GP3 series last year and leading the current standings in F2 with ART after achieving his fourth victory of the season at the Red Bull Ring last weekend.

It’s early days still, but the 20-year-old from Norfolk believes his results coupled with Leclerc’s performances bode well for his future.

“I think times are changing slightly, you have the likes of Verstappen, Ocon and Leclerc going into F1,” said Russell.

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“These guys can come in and challenge the experienced drivers in the field.

“I think what Charles is doing now is a great example of how competitive some junior series are. He won GP3 and then F2, and I won GP3 last year and [I’m] currently leading F2.

“From my personal selling point of view, let’s say, there’s a very good example in Charles to show what he’s capable of and what we’re doing this year.”

With various testing outings with Mercedes and Force India under his belt, and massive simulator mileage behind him, Russell feels he’s ready to step up to the big time should an unexpected opportunity suddenly materialize.

“If an opportunity arose with anybody at Silverstone this weekend, I’d feel ready, prepared,” he said.

“I’ve done extensive simulator work with Mercedes over the past two years really.

“I’ve done a number of days testing now with Mercedes and Force India and I feel confident that I can live up to the challenge,” he added.

“I know they believe there is potential with me or they wouldn’t have taken me on as a junior driver otherwise. I think they believe in me.

“Now we’re at the highest level of junior motorsport, it’s the best young drivers in the world, it’s definitely putting pressure on the guys who are managing my situation to hopefully find something for me next season.”

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