Russell reveals how he almost signed with Mercedes rival

Formula 1 driver George Russell discusses how he turned down a lucrative offer from BMW in order to gamble on his F1 dream with Mercedes


Set to make his Formula 1 debut with Mercedes, George Russell reveals that he came quite close to signing with BMW’s DTM program, a move that would have significantly altered the trajectory of his motorsports career.

Russell, who at the time had just finished his first season racing in Formula 3, was offered a chance to test a BMW DTM racecar in the winter. The test went so well that the Bavarian car manufacturer tabled a deal that, according to Russell, represented a significant financial commitment, with the British driver ultimately turning down the deal to focus on his Formula 1 dream.

“I had an offer from BMW to race in DTM,” Russell explained on the Motor Sport podacast.

“I did a test with BMW in December in Jerez. They sent one of their factory drivers from DTM as the reference driver. And we ended up being faster than the reference.”

Russell proceeded to explain how an engineer who had shifted from BMW to Mercedes played a pivitol role in helping the British ace ulitmately sign with Mercedes, despite the Stuggart firm’s reluctance to offer him anything concrete in the way of guarantees.

“There was an engineer who had shifted from BMW to Mercedes, and I think, potentially, he was quite influential saying ‘this guy was very fast and you need to sign him before BMW do,” Russell elaborated.

“So I had the contract on the table from BMW almost ready to sign it and that’s when I got the phone call from Gwen Lagrue, I was sat in the bath actually. He was saying ‘I want to have a conversation about joining Mercedes. And that’s where it all started really.”

Mercedes Ultimatum

Russell proceeded to detail how Mercedes were adamant that if he signed with BMW they’d withdraw their offer.

“It was absolutely clear from Mercedes-Benz, if you signed with BMW, there won’t be an option with Mercedes in the future,” Russell explained.

“So the deal on the table from Mercedes was racing Formula 3 for one more year with a Mercedes-backed team, which was Hitech, and come and do all of the simulator work for Mercedes F1, we’ll see how you get on, see how you’re performing on track, how you’re performing off track, and we’ll make a decision in October. There’s a chance we might not take you but a chance we will take you. But if you sign the BMW contract, we’re out.

“I was a 16-year-old at the time. 16/17 years old with a lot of money on the table. And it was all quite shocking. It all came so sudden. I’ve not really had any communications with F1 teams and conversations with Toto [Wolff] are positive, but not too sure if it’s going to lead to something but this is on the table now and a decision needed to be taken. Suddenly Mercedes pick up the phone but they weren’t offering anything concrete it was ‘you’ve got to take a chance.’

“They might turn around and say I’m sorry. But then the BMW door is closed as well. But the big difference is this is Mercedes and that was Formula 1 and BMW was DTM. I was a 17 year old and you had to take that risk. I guess if it didn’t work out I’d potentially be regretting it, but it worked out.”

While Russell performed admirably during his one-off appearance with Mercedes at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, the 2022 campaign will mark his first full season with the Brackley-based team. The Englishman claimed his first podium in the sport during the rain-affected Belgian Grand Prix this past year and has been tipped as a future world champion based on his performances with the Williams Formula 1 team

John Smith
John Smith
Editor at and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
- Advertisment -


Max Verstappen in the Paddock ahead of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Betting Odds for Chinese GP 2024

As the Formula 1 circus rolls into Shanghai for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, betting odds are keenly watched...
Pierre Gasly of Red Bull Racing during practice for 2019 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Chinese GP 2024 Weather: Latest forecast for F1 race in Shanghai

As Formula 1 teams gear up for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, all eyes are on the ever-changing weather...
Zhou Guanyu displays 2024 Chinese GP helmet

All the new F1 driver helmets for 2024 Chinese Grand Prix

Formula 1 finally returns to Shanghai for the first time since 2019 as the Chinese Grand Prix is back...
Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull leads Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and the rest of the field at the start of the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Chinese Grand Prix – Past Winners

The Chinese Grand Prix has showcased a series of spectacular races since its first race in 2004 at the...

Where to Watch F1 2024 Chinese GP on TV and Streaming

The 2024 Chinese Grand Prix is gearing up to be an electrifying event in the Formula 1 calendar, as...
The Chinese GP returned to the calendar in 2024 | Dan Istitene / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Unpredictability and unknowns are the Chinese GP buzzwords

The Chinese Grand Prix is back for 2024 after five years away due the Covid-19 pandemic and it almost...
Race winner Max Verstappen, Second placed Sergio Perez and Third placed Carlos Sainz of Ferrari celebrate with Craig Dear, Principal Aerodynamicist at Red Bull Racing on the podium at 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Carlos Sainz fuels Red Bull talk as Ferrari star reveals ‘best options’

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has dropped a hint over which Formula 1 team he would like to join for...
The Chinese GP is held in Shanghai. F1/X

F1 stars voice safety fears as Chinese GP organisers face scrutiny over painted track

Organisers for the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix are facing questions from F1 teams and drivers over their...
Alexander Albon of Williams during 2023 Canadian Grand Prix | Williams F1 Team

Alex Albon would rather ‘stay at home’ than avoid risks despite Williams chassis fears

The extent of the issues at Williams became apparent when they revealed they do not have the resources to...
Lando Norris navigates The Strip Circuit at the 2023 Las Vegas GP | McLaren F1 Team

Disheartened Lando Norris rules out any chance of an F1 race win soon

After the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, a Formula 1 win for Lando Norris felt like an eventual inevitability, but...
- Advertisment -