George Russell has been selected by Mercedes to replace Lewis Hamilton at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, with Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken stepping up from Formula 2 to fill in for his fellow Briton.
Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, ruling him out of at least this weekend’s race in Bahrain and potentially the season-finale in Abu Dhabi seven days later. While Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne was always set to travel to Bahrain after Formula E testing, the team has agreed terms with Williams to allow Russell to replace Hamilton and race for the constructors’ champions this weekend.
“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,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said.
“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 tires 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 (Bottas), 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 program 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 maximize 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.”
Williams has in turn called on its reserve driver Aitken to replace Russell, with the Briton making his F1 debut this weekend having originally been set to race in F2.
“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,” Williams acting team principal Simon Roberts said. “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.
“We are also thrilled this means we are able to give another British talent in Jack Aitken the opportunity to make his Formula 1 race debut. Jack joined Williams at the start of this season, and despite COVID-19 restrictions meaning we haven’t been able to interact with him as much as we would like, he has quickly become a much-liked member of the team. 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.”