George Russell says it has been an “intense 48 hours” since finding out he would be replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes at Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Briton will stand-in for Hamilton at Mercedes this weekend in Bahrain after the seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19, with a deal being struck between Mercedes and his current team Williams late on Tuesday.

Russell explained the whirlwind few days and paid thanks to both Mercedes and Williams for enabling the opportunity to happen.

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“It has all happened so fast, it’s been an intense 48 hours,” Russell said. “It was a very anxious on Tuesday waiting to find out if we could strike a deal with Williams and they were, I need to say a massive thank you to them for allowing me this opportunity and here we are.

“It feels strange to be back with Mercedes as I spent two years there as test/reserve/ simulator driver so I know all of the guys which makes things a lot easier to get back into the team and just being bombarded with information at the moment to learn ready for the weekend ahead.”

Russell revealed he got a call from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff in the early hours of Tuesday morning while he was in the bathroom to inform him of Hamilton’s positive test and that the team wanted him to drive.

“I got a phone call from Toto at 2am on Tuesday morning, I was in the bathroom, which was slightly awkward,” Russell explained.

“He said 'George are you in the bathroom?’ He said ‘unfortunately Lewis has caught covid, he’s healthy, but we want you to drive’. Right okay, then a bit of a sleepless night, we had it happen throughout the following day.

“I had 64 phone calls on Tuesday pinging between so many different people, glad we got there in the end.”

Russell acknowledged it will be a difficult task for him to get up to speed in the W11 given the short turnaround, and insisted he feels no pressure to perform going up against Valtteri Bottas. 

“It’s going to be incredibly difficult,” he said. “Valtteri has been pushing Lewis a huge amount over the years, I know it’s not going to be an easy task coming in.

“Any driver when you’re in the groove, you’re integrated into the team – the level I was at with Williams just having spent two years in the same car with my same engineers, same mechanics and changing suddenly, there’s so many new things to learn.

“I’ve got no expectations, no targets. Just build up to it over Friday, learn as much as I can and just do my best.

“From my side I think there’s no pressure,” he added. “I’m being thrown in at the last opportunity. I haven’t driven their simulator in two years. My seat is three years old. I’ve got so much information to learn and going up against Valtteri isn’t going to be easy.”

And Russell said he does not expect to earn a full-time Mercedes seat in the future solely based on his performance at this weekend’s race.

“One race doesn’t define a driver’s capabilities or the decision-making for something that’s over 12 months away,” Russell said. “So from my side that is not even in the back of my mind.

“I’m going to go out there, enjoy it, learn as much as I can. Because obviously I have a job to do back on my return to Williams which is to try and push that team forwards as well, to maximise that learning from Valtteri, the team, whoever.

“In terms of the future, that’ll be judged over the course of the season and what’s happened in the past as well, not just one or maybe two races.”

Russell admitted Hamilton’s cockpit was a “tight squeeze” due to him being around 10 centimetres taller than his compatriot, while he also revealed his overalls and racing boots were on the smaller side.

“It definitely was a tight squeeze,” he said. “Also my size 11 feet were a struggle so I’m having to wear a slightly smaller shoe than is ideal. So that’s slightly uncomfortable but I’m sure I can endure the pain to get this opportunity.”