Esteban Ocon could yet still get a Formula 1 lifeline with Williams in 2019 despite the announcement of George Russell on Friday.
The Grove-based team confirmed the F2 championship leader would be replacing the out-going Lance Stroll next season and because of his ties to Mercedes, it was thought that would end any chance Ocon has of securing a seat.
However, despite expectations a driver with financial backing, whether it be Sergey Sirotkin or Artem Markelov would be most likely, deputy team boss Claire Williams insists the Frenchman hasn't been ruled out.
"We are still doing a lot of evaluation work," she told Sky Sports. "It's a short short-list. We're very happy with the drivers we are evaluating and it will not take us a long time to make that final decision.
"Of course Esteban is in the mix. We would be crazy not to be looking at him."
After being criticised of chasing money over talent in recent years, Williams bucked that trend with Russell, though he revealed to Formula1.com that it was he who made first contact with the team after a phone call with technical director and former Mercedes boss Paddy Lowe.
"Paddy, I want to be in F1 next year and I want to be in a Williams car – can we arrange a meeting with Claire and yourself to discuss this further?" were the words the 20-year-old said to instigate his eventual promotion.
A simulator test followed which went "extremely well", he recalled, and then it was upto Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to finalise a deal.
"I had involvement. This is my career so they involved me a lot. It was a joint discussion," Russell insisted.
"Signing the contract was surreal. The more time is passing, the more it is hitting me that this is really happening. F1 has been a lifelong dream for me. To get this opportunity with Williams is beyond words."
Williams hinted it won't just be a single-year deal with George either.
"We need someone who we can build this team around," Claire continued. "We need a galvanising force and George is going to be that for us.
"We wanted someone who would be with us for a number of years and who the team could get behind. That was a big factor in our decision-making.
"It's really exciting for us to bring in another new talent into Williams. We're a team renowned for that and this is our first British driver since Jenson. His racing pedigree speaks for itself.
"It's exciting for F1 to have another young talent on board and George is tipped to be a superstar of our sport in years to come."
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