Mercedes have confirmed George Russell will race in place of Lewis Hamilton for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, stepping up from Williams.
Mercedes have confirmed it will be George Russell racing in Lewis Hamilton’s car this weekend. The reigning Champion is unable to compete, as he has tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, Mercedes were forced to look around and had the backup plan of Formula E racer Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian driver was in Valencia in Spain testing for the Mercedes Formula E team and is the F1 team’s official reserve.
However, Russell is F1 sharp and Mercedes reached an agreement with their engine customer team to snaffle the British driver away for the weekend. Williams, in Russell’s place, will promote their reserve driver Jack Aitken from Formula 2.
Russell has been part of Merc’s driver programme since 2017 when he won the GP3 Series, stepping up to Formula 1 with Williams in 2019.
“First and foremost, I wish to thank our loyal partners at Williams for their collaboration and open-mindedness in making it possible for George to race for Mercedes this weekend. The conversations with the team at Williams were positive and pragmatic, and those were the key factors in reaching an agreement,” commented Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff.
“It will not be a straightforward task for George to make the transition from the Williams to the W11, but he is race-ready and has detailed understanding of the 2020 tyres and how they perform on this generation of cars. George has shown impressive form this year with Williams, playing an instrumental role in their climb up the grid, and I am optimistic that he will deliver a strong performance alongside Valtteri, who will be a demanding reference for him.
“This race will mark a small milestone for us, as we see a member of our Junior programme compete for the works Mercedes team for the first time. We have a job to do this weekend, and the full focus of our sporting efforts will be behind Valtteri and George in order to maximise our points score as a team. But, of course, our thoughts are also with Lewis, and we will be supporting him as much as we can to make a rapid recovery during his period of self-isolation.”
Russell, who gets a great chance to claim his maiden podium or even win as he drives the fastest car in F1, was thrilled to say: “Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity. I might be wearing a different race suit this weekend, but I’m a Williams driver and I’ll be cheering my team on every step of the way.”
“I see this as a great chance to learn from the best outfit on the grid right now and to come back as an improved driver, with even more energy and experience to help push Williams further up the grid. A big thank you also to Mercedes for putting their faith in me. Obviously, nobody can replace Lewis, but I’ll give my all for the team in his absence from the moment I step in the car. Most importantly, I wish him a speedy recovery. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and can’t wait to get out on track this week.”
It’s not yet been announced what might happen for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next week. This will be dependent on whether Hamilton is cleared to race or not, as Abu Dhabi has strict quarantine and isolation rules.