Russell impresses on ‘surreal’ F1 race weekend debut for Force India

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Mercedes junior George Russell enjoyed an impressive first Formula 1 race weekend appearance with Force India on Friday in Brazil, finishing opening practice 12th-fastest at Interlagos.

Russell, 19, enjoyed his second outing in an F1 car with Force India following a test appearance with Mercedes back in July, having spent the majority of this year focusing on a title-winning campaign in GP3.

The Briton completed 29 laps at Interlagos en route to P12 overall for Force India, lapping six-tenths of a second slower than full-time racer Esteban Ocon.

“First and foremost I want to thank Force India because I really enjoyed today. It’s 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,” Russell said.

“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 and 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.”

Force India deputy team boss Bob Fernley added: “George performed admirably, especially considering he had never driven our car or at Interlagos.

“As we expected after his good work in the simulator, he slotted straight in with the team.”

Russell will return to the Force India VJM10 car for opening practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, as well as featuring in the final two races of his GP3 campaign at Yas Marina.