How Leclerc is helping other F1 juniors

Charles Leclerc’s incredible performance in the last few races will make it easy for junior drivers get an F1 race seat, says Mercedes junior George Russell.

After winning the GP3 Series in 2016 and the Formula 2 championship last season, Leclerc got a race seat at Sauber, thanks to Ferrari’s arrangement with the Swiss outfit.

Following the same path to F1, Russell won the GP3 title in 2017 and is currently the championship leader in F2. He won the Austrian race and three other races so far this year.

Speaking with reporters, he said: “I think times are changing slightly, you have the likes of Verstappen, Ocon and Leclerc going into F1,”

“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.”

Apart from his competitive driving, Russell has also tested F1 cars for Mercedes and Force India. He believes this experience and his latest wins will force Mercedes to find him an F1 seat for 2019.

“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.

“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 motor sport, 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.”

Russell’s fellow driver and McLaren junior Lando Norris has caught the attention of many F1 teams. It is said he has been approached by three F1 teams for a potential race seat in the prime series.

But a recent setup change at the Paul Ricard has allowed the young Mercedes driver to rise up in the standings while his fellow British driver is going through a rough phase.

“We’re arriving at each round with the car much closer to where we want it,” Russell added. “At the start of the year we were quite a way off in practice, I think my best practice time from the first three rounds was fifth.

“We changed the car and learned what we needed too, and now we can start much closer, and make small changes to optimise the car rather than having to make big changes.”

Will both Russell and Norris get to F1 in 2019? and if they do, it would make for an interesting competition.

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