George Russell has been announced as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement at 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix with Jack Aitken replacing Russell at Williams.
Hamilton tested positive for Coronavirus on Monday which forced the reigning seven-time world champion into self-isolation, leaving many expecting Stoffel Vandoorne to be called up as replacement driver.
Mercedes instead opted to promote Russell who has been part of the Silver Arrows’ junior programme and is currently driving for F1 rivals, Williams with Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff describing the team as “loyal” for their assistance and “open-mindedness” in allowing Russell to switch to Mercedes for this weekend,”
Wolff however acknowledged that it “will not be a straightforward task” for Russell in transitioning from his Williams car to the Mercedes W11 but said that the Brit is “race-ready and has detailed understanding of the 2020 tyres and how they perform on this generation of cars.”
The 48 year-old boss also praised Russell for his improved form this season, saying; “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 also marks the first time that a member of Mercedes’ Junior programme compete for the works team as part of a F1 race weekend but Wolff iterated that “the full focus of our sporting efforts will be behind Valtteri and George in order to maximise our points score as a team.”
Russell meanwhile tweeted his tanks via Twitter to both Mercedes and Williams for allowing him this opportunity to step up into the Silver Arrows, saying;
Very few people are lucky enough to drive for an @F1 team each year. I’m about to get the chance to drive for two.
Thank you all 🙏 pic.twitter.com/x2ZGMWOX8A
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) December 2, 2020
Mercedes will announce their driver plans for Abu Dhabi early next week.
Aitken Steps Up from F2 to Williams
Russell’s sudden promotion to Mercedes means that British F2 star, Jack Aitken has been handed his maiden F1 call-up by Williams to replace his fellow compatriot, with Aitken stating that he is “absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to make my debut with Williams this coming weekend…” whilst expressing that he is “extremely happy” to see Russell promoted into the Mercedes.
Aitken who had participated in Styria FP1 in July, proceeded to describe his opportunity to help Williams to try and “achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least.”
Acting Team Principal, Simon Roberts is “delighted” with Russell’s promotion but iterated that the Brit “very much remains a Williams driver” whilst looking ahead to his return fresh from this experience.”
Roberts also spoke of this opportunity to provide another home-grown talent in Aitken with his first F1 race weekend opportunity despite Coronavirus restrictions limiting their interaction this season, saying; “We look forward to seeing him build on his previous experience driving the car in practice, to see what he can do in a qualifying and race situation.”