British protege George Russell has joined the Mercedes junior programme alongside Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon for 2017.

The 2014 McLaren BRDC award winner has caught the eye of Mercedes having impressed in the FIA European Formula 3 championship for the past two years, finishing third in the 2016 drivers' championship with the Mercedes-powered HitechGP.

Russell will switch into the GP3 Series with ART Grand Prix and receive support from Mercedes this season, something the 18-year-old is thrilled to secure as he sees it as a key stepping stone in his career towards F1.

"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."

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Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff has welcomes Russell with open arms and believes he has 'great potential' to become a future F1 star.

"George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we've been keeping a close eye on him for a while now," Wolff said. "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 [Bottas] into Formula One, so we will follow George's progress with great interest."

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