Wolff thanks 'open-minded' Williams for releasing Russell to Mercedes
Williams were under no obligation to release George Russell to fill in for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix. But after the news was confirmed, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff hailed the “positive and pragmatic” approach from his former team in allowing the Mercedes protégé to make the switch.
After Bahrain Grand Prix winner Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19, there was a rush to decide who would fill in for the seven-time champion at Mercedes, with Russell eventually getting the nod to drive alongside Valtteri Bottas, as Formula 2 and Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken was announced as Russell’s replacement.
But with the currently point-less Williams gunning for an important ninth-place constructors’ finish in the remaining two races of the season – which at this stage would require them outscoring the three points of Haas – there were compelling reasons for Williams to keep Russell on, making Wolff all the more grateful that the Mercedes customer team had allowed the switch.
“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,” said Wolff, a former shareholder in Williams. “The conversations with the team at Williams were positive and pragmatic, and those were the key factors in reaching an agreement.
“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,” he added.
Russell has built a reputation as one of Formula 1’s best performers on a Saturday, having never been outqualified by a team mate in his two-season career.
Points on a Sunday still elude him, however. And while he now has a fantastic chance to score them in the all-conquering Mercedes W11 at the Sakhir Grand Prix – set to run at the short, fast Outer Track of the Bahrain International Circuit – according to 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.
“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,” added Wolff, who as Team Principal has secured already secured his seventh straight double championship this year. “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.”