George Russell appeared for Mercedes at the Thursday press conference for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but admits he’s playing a waiting game to see if Lewis Hamilton can return this weekend.
Hamilton missed the last race in Bahrain after testing positive for COVID-19 10 days ago, having to isolate for that period. Russell replaced him in the Sakhir Grand Prix and missed out on pole position by 0.026s before seeing victory slip away due to a pit stop error and tire puncture, but while he is in Mercedes gear at present he says Hamilton will be back in the car if he is cleared to drive.
“I’m unsure, to be honest,” Russell said. “We’re still waiting to get Lewis’ results back, so yeah, for now we are going ahead as planned and if Lewis returns with a negative result he will be back in the car.
“(I’ve done) all the prep as normal. I was here this morning, working through with the engineers — Bono (Peter Bonnington) and the guys — treating everything as if I will be driving the Mercedes this weekend.”
The latest Hamilton can get in the car is Saturday afternoon for qualifying, as the driver that takes part in qualifying cannot be replaced for the race.
Should Hamilton return, Russell will be back with Williams this weekend — with Jack Aitken missing out — but the focus since Sakhir has been to ensure Russell is feeling more comfortable in the Mercedes if required.
“We’ve made some minor modifications but there’s only a limited amount of things you can do in the short period of time we’ve had and ultimately a lot more work needs to go in to get me comfortable in the car,” Russell admitted. “We’ve got some slightly different things on the steering wheel which makes things easier for me, so that is positive, but obviously having had a race weekend in the car everything should be more natural.
“There is a lot (to take back to Williams), obviously not too much I want to say in the media as I’ll then give it away to the rest of the grid, but the guys at Mercedes work at such a high level, absolutely every single detail, and they leave no stone unturned, and it pays dividends. This is why they are the best, and this is why they are dominating. There’s a number of things I can go back to Williams with — being a better driver, more confidence, and a few things that will help push the team forward.”