Mercedes' protege George Russell close to Force India reserve role

Force India is closing on a deal to make Mercedes protege George Russell its reserve driver for the 2018 Formula 1 season

Mercedes' protege George Russell close to Force India reserve role

The newly-crowed GP3 champion made his F1 grand prix weekend debut in Friday's opening practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix when he drove Sergio Perez's Force India.

He completed 29 laps and finished the session 12th fastest, six tenths slower than team-mate and fellow Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon.

Discussions are ongoing with Mercedes, with Force India keen to secure Russell's services for the long-term.

"I don't see any reason why [he will not get the reserve role]," Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley told Autosport.

"The main thing is to make sure the availability is there longer term. It's not a short term thing.

"It's a win-win for Mercedes and ourselves. The same thing happened with Esteban.

"They happen to have a driver that is under contract and it fits in with our programme and it fits in with theirs. That is not always the case.

"We've been very lucky with both Esteban and now possibly George."

Russell made a good impression during the 90-minute session and will get a second run in FP1, in place of Esteban Ocon, ahead of the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

"His performance at the weekend was excellent, he settled in very nicely," said Fernley.

"We can learn quite a bit from that [running] and it's not just that but the simulator programmes as well.

"What he does in the simulator translates onto the track and we can make the comparisons across the board.

"He hasn't spent a huge amount of time in the simulator, but enough for us to be able to get a good picture on him.

"He had never been to the track in Brazil and never driven the car before.

"We're now taking him to Abu Dhabi where he's done both, and that will be an interesting assessment for him.

"George is a very confident young man, self-assured, confident, charming, a bit Esteban like in many ways."

It is hoped an agreement with Mercedes can be completed before Christmas.

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