George Russell has set his sights on being crowned a Formula One world champion as he prepares to make his debut in Australia.
Russell, 21, will complete a lifelong ambition when he lines up on the grid for Williams at Melbourne’s Albert Park curtain raiser on Sunday.
But the highly-rated Englishman, whose impressive C.V includes back-to-back GP3 and Formula Two titles – the feeder championships to Formula One – and a year as understudy to Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, isn’t content on simply making up the numbers.
“I want to become a Formula One world champion,” he told Press Association Sport.
“I recognise that it is an incredible achievement to make it to this stage, but the journey starts again.
“I don’t want to be here for one or two seasons. I want to be in F1 for 15 or 20 years, and the only way I am going to do that is by giving my everything and competing at this level.
“It’s very surreal because this has been my dream, and I have to recognise that F1 isn’t football and there aren’t hundreds of opportunities at different clubs in different leagues in different countries.
“F1 has room for only the best 20 drivers in the world, and being a part of that elite group is incredible.”
Russell is set to usher in a new dawn for British motor racing with compatriot Lando Norris, the 19-year-old McLaren driver, also taking his grand prix bow this weekend.
The two starlets are the hottest British F1 prospects since five-time world champion Hamilton burst on to the scene in Melbourne a dozen years ago.
“Whenever Lando and I text each other it is always a joke of some description or just banter,” added Russell.
“We won’t be sending messages to each other saying ‘good luck’.
“We are not best pals, but we definitely get along, and our relationship will grow as the year progresses because we are embarking on something spectacular together.”
Like Norris, Russell has spent his formative career duelling for wins and championships, but he will be at the wrong end of the grid this year with Williams in a state of disarray.
The British team, winners of 16 combined individual and team honours, missed the first two-and-a-half-days of pre-season testing in Barcelona because their car wasn’t ready, and when they did hit the track their machinery was slow. Last week, technical director, Paddy Lowe, was given his marching orders.
“My goal with Williams is to build this team and develop the car,” continued Russell.
“I don’t have any interest in racing for last place. I want to put Williams back to where they belong.”
Standing at 6ft 2in, the stringy Russell will be one of the tallest drivers on the grid. But new weight rules introduced for this season – a driver can now be 80 kilograms complete with his kit – has enabled the Brit to beef up over the winter.
“The increased weight limit was the best Christmas present ever,” he added. “Since the end of last year I have put on five kilos – 75 per cent muscle and 25 per cent fat – so I weigh 73 kilos which is more normal for someone my size. I can now look in the mirror and see something more than just a lanky man.
“I was so skinny before, and I didn’t have an ounce of anything on me, but now I feel so much better, not just physically, but mentally, too. I have more energy, and I can’t wait to get going.”