British racing driver George Russell added to Mercedes' junior programme

Russell became the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award last year. Sutton Images

British 18-year-old George Russell has been added to Mercedes young driver programme ahead of his first season in GP3 this year.

Russell is one of just three drivers in Mercedes' junior programme alongside F1 drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. He finished third in European Formula 3 last year with Mercedes power and will now join the ART team in GP3.

"It's great to be part of the Junior Programme," Russell said. "It is an incredibly opportunity to have the backing of the Formula One World Champions. I'm proud to have been given this kind of recognition for all the hard work that's gone into my career over the years so far.

"I've started doing some work with the team in the simulator and it's already become clear to me that I'm working with people who are the best in the business, who I know will help me develop as a driver and as a person. Of course, my priority is to get the job done over the coming season in GP3 and I'm fully focused on that. But this opportunity is a huge motivation and I'm looking forward to the challenge. It should be an exciting year ahead."

Team boss Toto Wolff added: "George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we've been keeping a close eye on him for a while now. It's still early days in his career but we see great potential in him.

"George's next challenge in GP3 will provide a good test of his credentials for the future. We have already seen with Esteban how effective this series can be as a training ground and, of course, this is the championship which propelled Valtteri into Formula One, so we will follow George's progress with great interest."