George Russell has made history as the youngest driver ever selected as a finalist in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, which carries a McLaren Formula 1 test drive as a prize for the winner.
The Wisbech racer, who was 16 in February, is one of the six finalists in the contest, which every year since 1989 has sought to find the most promising British driver competing at a junior level.
Former winners include David Coulthard (winner of the inaugural award), Dario Franchitti, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta.
Russell has been selected on the basis of his superb maiden season in cars – the multiple karting champion is in the hunt for the BRDC Formula 4 Championship title with one round to go, and finished fourth in the ultra-competitive Formula Renault ALPS series.
George and the other five finalists will gather at Silverstone for two days of testing at the end of October, during which they will sample Formula 2 single-seaters, DTM Mercedes machinery and a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 racer.
With the F2 car pushing out 425bhp, and the awe-inspiring Mercedes and McLaren both offering over 500bhp, this is a far cry from the cars Russell has been racing this year! The six young talents will also warm up by lapping Silverstone in McLaren MP4-12C road cars – not that Russell is even old enough to drive on the road for another few months!
Other prizes include £100,000, full membership of the exclusive British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) and an Arai GP-6 RC helmet.
“We’ve put 100 per cent effort and work in this year,” said Russell. “Although luck hasn’t always been our side and we’ve had a few issues the judges have seen past it, and it’s great to be recognised.
“I’m massively looking forward to driving the DTM Mercedes and GT3 McLaren. A racing car is a racing car, but it’s going to be amazing to go from a single-seater to something that’s so heavy and has so much power. It’s going to be difficult for us all to adapt but I can’t wait.
“I’ve heard that the Formula 2 car is a real challenge to drive – it will be very powerful and physical, but probably the easiest for us all to adapt to as it’s the same kind of concept as we’re all racing in at the moment.”
As one of only two finalists who are in their rookie seasons in car racing, George knows that it will be tough to win the award, but will be trying his best.
“I really do want to win it,” he said, “but I just need to be relaxed and not put too much pressure on myself, and then the performance will come. I’ll give it my all, but it’s not about being the fastest over one lap – you have to be consistently quick and not crash. There’s a lot to winning this award and that’s what makes it so special.”