Claire Williams says George Russell’s talent alone, and not his links to Mercedes, was key to her Formula 1 team signing him for 2019.

Russell, who is on the verge of being crowned this year’s Formula 2 champion, was confirmed as the first driver to be named in Williams’ driver line-up for next season earlier this month.

The Briton has received backing from reigning world champions Mercedes since the start of his GP3 title-winning campaign in 2017, though Williams insisted this was not a factor in his graduation to F1.

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“George has obviously come up through the Mercedes young driver programme but that was not a factor in our decision-making,” Williams' deputy team principal said.

“We purely saw a young talent coming up through the junior championships, as I think we all have. We’ve all recognised the talent that George has, and are probably all pretty excited about the talent that he has coming into this sport.

“So no, the Mercedes relationship wasn’t a factor. George has a multi-year arrangement with us moving forward and he will be a Williams driver during that period and will focus on being a Williams driver.

“There were no factors around financial considerations with Mercedes on making that decision. It was purely a decision made on the talent that George has.”

Williams wants 2019 F1 line-up sorted by end of season

Fellow Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon, Sergey Sirotkin and reserve driver Robert Kubica are understood to be on Williams’ shortlist for the sole-remaining seat at the team, following Lance Stroll’s expected departure to Force India.

Williams hopes a decision can be made before the end of the current campaign, though she said the Grove-based squad is not in “any mad rush” to complete its line-up.

“We haven’t made that decision yet, we’re taking our time with it. We’re not in any mad rush,” Williams added.

“We have a few drivers on the list; clearly I wouldn’t confirm who they are. But we are excited about that decision too, we have some exciting prospects that we are evaluating now.

“We’ve got a number of considerations to factor into that decision and we’ll make an announcement in due course; I’m hoping by the end of the season.”

Williams revealed the team has a “good budget” heading into 2019 despite a difficult season and stressed talent will be the main consideration when making the final call on its second driver.

“Independent teams in this sport haven’t had an easy ride over the past few years, the sponsorship landscape is pretty tough out there,” she explained.

“The way that the prize fund distribution is at the moment in Formula 1 doesn’t make it easy, and not least coming tenth in the championship this year puts the squeeze on things a little bit, but we’re managing our finances pretty well.

“There are a lot of considerations when it comes to choosing the driver for the second seat – but predominantly the main one has to be on talent.”

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