George Russell to replace Hamilton at Mercedes for Sakhir Grand Prix
George Russell will get the opportunity of a lifetime when he drives the world championship-winning Mercedes W11 in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for Covid-19.
Mercedes opened talks with Williams about borrowing the Briton, who has been backed by the Silver Arrows throughout his career, for the second Bahrain race when it became clear Hamilton was in isolation and would not be able to drive.
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They eventually came to an arrangement, with Williams releasing Russell to drive the Silver Arrows alongside Valtteri Bottas in the penultimate round.
Williams reserve Jack Aitken will replace Russell at Williams, joining regular driver Nicholas Latifi.
“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.”
Russell has extensive experience driving for Mercedes, having completed six days of running for the world champions since 2017. His most recent run was in last year’s end-of-season Abu Dhabi test.
He made his F1 debut last year with Williams and has marked himself out as a future star with a string of strong drives and impressive qualifying performances in a lower-half-of-the-grid car.
Russell has yet to score a point, but has come close, finishing 11th once and 12th twice, and was also in contention at Imola before crashing behind the Safety Car.
His performances in qualifying have been particularly impressive, the 22-year-old unbeaten against his two team mates to-date in 36 consecutive races.
Mercedes rate Russell highly and had considered him for a seat at their team this year, only for Williams – then under different management – to choose not to consider releasing him from his three-year-deal.
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“Our long-term partnership and George’s affiliation with Mercedes is no secret, and so I’m delighted George has this unique opportunity to join Mercedes, the current Constructors’ Champions, said Williams' Acting Team Principal, Simon Roberts.
"We have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to allow him this fantastic opportunity. George very much remains a Williams driver and we look forward to him returning to us fresh from this experience and wish him a successful race this weekend."
Russell would also be an option to stay in the car for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, should Hamilton not recover in time to return to racing.