George Russell's optimism over a move to Formula 1 in 2019 has been boosted following a series of driver market moves over the summer break. Russell, a Mercedes junior, has been linked to a race seat with Williams to partner Sergey Sirotkin next year.
Russell was previously in the frame for a seat at Force India, as Esteban Ocon was set to leave the team to join Renault. However, Renault announced that Daniel Ricciardo would be joining them, while Force India dropped into administration.
Lance Stroll is now expected to leave Williams for Force India, following his father's takeover of the Silverstone-based team. Russell is currently leading the FIA Formula 2 championship and is now more confident that he can secure a race seat for 2019 in F1.
"It’s definitely had a bit of a knock-on effect, just because things have changed so much to what we anticipated a month or six weeks ago," he told Crash.net. "When you look where we want to end up, and you kind of put all the other drivers in place where you expect them to be, that’s now all changed, and we’ve got to kind of re-look at it.
"Some drivers who you didn’t expect to be looking for drives are now looking for drives. Teams which potentially didn’t have many options for drivers now have a few more. It’s definitely changed my position. But at the end of the day, all I can do is keep winning and keep putting the car on pole, and I’ll make the opportunity for myself."
Russell has backed Mercedes, saying that he believes they will find a seat for him if they think he deserves it. He drew up an example of Pascal Wehrlein, who had to leave Manor after the team folded - but Mercedes found him a seat at Sauber for another season.
"I think if they believe their drivers deserve a chance, they’ll make that happen, no matter what," Russel stated. "That is the positive. They won’t give me the opportunity just because they’re Mercedes. If they don’t think I’ve done a good enough job in Formula 2, they won’t give me the opportunity.
"Pascal, he came from winning DTM at a young age and they had to find him a Formula 1 seat. When Manor left, they still felt like he deserved a chance, and they had to find him a seat as they did at Sauber. Same with Esteban, and hopefully the same with myself."
Russell also believes that he isn't getting enough credit for leading the F2 title battle in his rookie year. He says that Charles Leclerc's success as a rookie has softened the 'wow factor' of being competitive upon arrival at the series.
"We’re leading Formula 2 in my rookie season. I think with the success of Charles [Leclerc] last year, there probably isn’t as much credit probably being given to myself and Lando [Norris], who are one-two in the championship, two rookies.
"A couple of years ago that was completely unheard of. People used to say you had to be in your third or fourth year to win GP2. Even Stoffel [Vandoorne] winning it in his second year was a massive wow factor. Mercedes are clear. I’ve got to make this happen for myself as much as the help they give me."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing