It’s not every day that you get presented with an enormous cheque – in every sense of the phrase – for 200,000 Euros. But that’s nonetheless what happened to George Russell last Sunday night, who scooped up the cash prize from Pirelli after winning the GP3 title in a dominant display this year.
The giant cheque was handed over by Pirelli’s head of car racing Mario Isola at the GP3 prize-giving ceremony in the Luna Lounge: a glittering terrace overlooking the Yas Marina paddock.
It was yet another thing to carry on a memorable night for the British ART Grand Prix driver, who went home groaning with so much silverware that he probably needed to pay for excess baggage. But the Pirelli cheque was a particularly pleasant encumbrance, standing almost as tall as most racing drivers. And in an interesting legal twist, even a display cheque of that size, if signed, technically becomes effective – meaning that a bank in theory would have to honour it if paid in over the counter…
There’s only one condition: the cheque has to be spent on a Formula 2 drive next year, rather than taken to the nearest casino in the hope of maximising revenue. The sum won’t quite pay for a whole season, but it will cover a significant chunk of the budget: an invaluable help in an era when it’s becoming more and more difficult for young drivers to finance their progress to the next level.
Russell already has backing from Mercedes: this year (including Abu Dhabi) he’s been out in free practice sessions with the Mercedes-supplied Force India Formula 1 team. Remarkably, the Briton was only a rookie in GP3 this year before going on to blitz the series: if he carries on at this rate in Formula 2, he should be a strong candidate for the championship’s Pirelli Rookie of the Year prize next season.
One look at Russell’s statistics this year shows why he is a worthy winner in GP3: four pole positions from a possible eight, with his Abu Dhabi effort perhaps the most impressive having had to jump straight from the Force India and adapt to the very different demands – something even his predecessor Charles Leclerc has struggled with before. He also won the first race of the weekend at half of the events, and was on the podium in six of them. That kind of consistency could serve him well when he takes the next step into Formula 2.