Russell hails 'huge step' after FP1 debut
10 November 2017 – George Russell hailed a "huge step up" as he made his Formula 1 weekend debut during practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Friday.
Russell, 19, joined Mercedes at the start of the year and piloted the W08 for both days of the in-season Hungaroring, and went on to clinch the GP3 title with a round to spare.
Earlier this week, Force India announced that it would field Russell in FP1 in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and the Briton got behind the wheel of the VJM10 on Friday morning, in place of Sergio Pérez.
Russell completed 29 laps and finished 12th overall, his best time 0.593s down on team-mate and fellow Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon.
"This is something I have been working towards for a long time and even though it feels normal right now, it's a surreal feeling to know I have been driving in a race weekend," said Russell.
"It's a huge step up for me, but I have been prepared as well as I could be: I have done days in the simulator with both Mercedes and Force India.
"I feel that, after my days at the test in Budapest, this was the next step.
"I didn't know the car or the circuit and I wanted to learn as much as I could to review and take to Abu Dhabi, a track I know."
Russell explained that dealing with traffic on the relatively short circuit proved one of the biggest challenges during the latter stages of the session.
"We did some aero running early in the session, then some proper runs to change the set-up to my liking," he said.
"All tyre compounds felt good and I got up to speed quickly. I was very happy with the car.
"The final half of the session was quite difficult: I was still doing fast laps while others were doing longer runs: it's a short circuit and it's difficult to find space.
"You end up compromising your warm-up procedures because you're looking in the mirrors all the time, but it's something from which I learnt a lot."