2017 GP3 Series Champion talks about his season
GP3 Series: George Russell, GP3 Series Champion. How does that feel?
George Russell: It feels fantastic! Firstly, I would like to give a massive thank you to everybody at ART Grand Prix: they have been absolutely incredible with all four of us. And then secondly, I would like to thank Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. They’ve obviously helped me a lot this season, they put their faith in me at the start of the year, and they have developed me into a better driver to get me into this position today.
GP3 Series: How important has your personal relationship with ART Grand Prix been for you this campaign?
George: It has been massively important. It’s helped to have three extremely fast and intelligent teammates. We all got along very well this season and we have all come together after every session to talk with the engineers and to push the team forward. I think it’s quite easy for either of us to say ART had the best car and the reason behind it was that we worked so well as a team. We’ve been able to push in the right direction to give us that car.
GP3 Series: How difficult was the title battle with your teammates across the season especially with Jack Aitken?
George: To be honest, I have not really thought about the title so much: this was the first weekend I ever really thought about it. Even then, like I said yesterday, I came into this event with the same mind-set as always: to try and put it on pole and win Race 1. I could not accomplish that, but my second objective was to try and beat my main rival, which was Jack [Aitken]. I went into the race today knowing what I had to do: I had to beat him by one place and try and get the fastest lap. As we all know, this circuit is extremely difficult to overtake. I saw an opportunity on the first lap into Turn 6 and I took it.
GP3 Series: When did you believe you could win this title?
George: Quite early on to be honest. After Barcelona’s “disappointment” let’s say, we had a test in Budapest between the first and second round. I set myself the goal that I could put it on pole every single race from then until the end of the season. It was almost there: I put it on pole three times. Unfortunately yesterday it did not go to plan, but that was my target. Throughout the season, I felt I had the team around me to be able to do that and win the races we won.
GP3 Series: What were the highlights and lowlights of your campaign?
George: The lowlight was definitely Budapest, when we started second on the grid and we didn’t get to start the race. The highlight was probably…I don’t know. Potentially it was the qualifying session in Spa: I felt like that was a really great performance from all of us in the team. We absolutely dominated the session although we only put it on pole by 3 tenths. I think that was a highlight for me. Obviously, now today is the biggest highlight!
GP3 Series: What does this title mean for the team and the people behind you?
George: I’m sure it means a lot to the team, but they are fairly used to winning this category. At the start of the year, Mercedes set a clear goal for me and that was to go out and win this title no matter how I do it: win every race or finish second in every race as Esteban [Ocon] almost did in 2015. That was a clear objective. I’ve had plenty of messages already from them saying congratulations. I’m sure they’re happy.
GP3 Series: How big their part has played in your success as well?
George: I think they’ve played a big part. Being part of their team and spending time in their debriefs with Lewis [Hamilton] and Valtteri [Bottas], just seeing how they analyse the data and feed back to the team. From that side that really helped me. Also I’ve done four days of F1 testing this season, two in the 2015 car and two in the 2016 car. I’ve picked up a lot about how to use the Pirelli tyres, how to look after the temperatures, as we all know tyre management is quite crucial in GP3, Formula 2 and Formula 1. They’ve helped me a lot…
GP3 Series: What are your plans for next season?
George: At the moment, there is nothing sorted. Obviously, Formula 1 is my clear goal, but I think for next season everything is tight down there unfortunately for me. As we all know this sport is all about performing at the right time. I think it’s most likely going to be Formula 2. That’s what I would like to do. I think it makes more sense to be in the limelight of the F1 team, having the guys around me if I need. And obviously, Formula 2 is a step below Formula 1. I’d say it is most likely, but we’re still in talks with teams at the moment.