George Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, giving the young Briton an excellent opportunity to score his first points in Formula One.
It will also give Russell a chance to make his case for a Mercedes seat in 2022, as team principal Toto Wolff and the entire F1 community will be keen to see how he stacks up against Valterri Bottas.
Hamilton tested positive for coronavirus on Monday morning after displaying mild symptoms, ruling him out of the upcoming Sakhir GP.
Mercedes subsequently reached out to Williams to see if they would be willing to release Russell and allow him to race with the Silver Arrows.
The teams reached an agreement by Wednesday morning.
Formula Two driver Jack Aitken will fill in for George Russell at Williams in what will be his F1 debut.
Reacting to the opportunity to race the most competitive car on the grid, Russell said:
“Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity. I might be wearing a different race suit this weekend, but I’m a Williams driver and I’ll be cheering my team on every step of the way.
“I see this as a great chance to learn from the best outfit on the grid right now and to come back as an improved driver, with even more energy and experience to help push Williams further up the grid. A big thank you also to Mercedes for putting their faith in me,” he added.
Continuing, the Brit said: “Obviously, nobody can replace Lewis, but I’ll give my all for the team in his absence from the moment I step in the car. Most importantly, I wish him a speedy recovery. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and can’t wait to get out on track this week.”
Meanwhile, Wolff thanked Williams for releasing Russell for the weekend but noted it won’t be a straightforward transition for the young driver.
“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.
“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,” Wolff said.
“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,” Wolff added.
It remains unclear if Lewis Hamilton will be able to compete in the season finale in Abu Dhabi which will take place just a week after the Sakhir GP.