George Russell has been announced as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after Williams Racing agreed to release him on loan to the Mercedes F1 team.

A positive COVID-19 diagnosis for Hamilton in the hours after his 11th victory of the 2020 F1 season in the Bahrain Grand Prix meant a coveted spot in his dominant title-winning Mercedes W11 came up for grabs on Tuesday leading to intense speculation as to which candidate would get the nod.

Though ex-McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne is officially Mercedes’ reserve driver, Mercedes’ first choice was its junior development protege Russell, who is coming towards the end of his second season in F1 with the Williams team.

 

 

As such, Mercedes was able to negotiate a loan that will see Russell step into Hamilton’s vacated W11 and team up with Valtteri Bottas.

"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," commented Team Principal and CEO Toto 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,” said Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff. 

”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 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. 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. 

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." 

The turn of events means Russell is well placed to score his first point in F1 in what will be his 37th grand prix start in a car that will give him the opportunity to showcase his talents towards the front of the field.

Indeed, though he remains without the much desired top ten finish after almost two years of racing, it is a reflection of his Williams team that had fallen from grace just as he arrived in 2019. However, despite the team’s minnow status, Russell is broadly credited with out-performing the car and in qualifying especially has been a match at times for Ferrari.

More than that though, with Russell widely presumed as a Mercedes driver-in-waiting, a direct comparison against Bottas means this weekend could well go on to decide their F1 futures beyond the 2021 season

 

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