Following the news that reigning F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton will be sitting out this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain due to a recent positive COVID-19 test, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team have revealed a temporary stand-in.
George Russell will be stepping up and into the No.44 car to replace the sidelined Hamilton, though it is unknown whether this arrangement will be solely for this upcoming race or will extend to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit in mid-December and beyond.
Russell is currently driving for the AMG-powered Williams F1 team - who have approved the temporary driver shuffle - and has managed to make an impression as one of the sport’s most talented rising stars. Filling the 22-year old’s vacancy is Formula 2 racer and fellow Brit Jack Aitken.
Toto Wolff, team principal of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, said that Russell’s impressive performance with the Williams team and larger volume of experience with 2020 season-spec cars was the primary factory behind choosing Russell over the team’s reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne.
No doubt this is a huge opportunity for the young Brit, stepping into the dominant Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance and racing alongside driver’s championship runner-up Valterri Bottas. Coincidentally, the Finn also rose to the Mercedes-AMG seat in 2017 to replace Nico Rosberg after cutting his teeth with Williams over 4 seasons.
There’s speculation that Hamilton, regardless of his recent COVID-19 positive diagnosis, was contemplating a graceful exit from Formula 1 in the coming seasons following his clinching of his 7th driver’s world champion title last month, equalling the bar set by Michael Schumacher.
In a statement by Mercedes-AMG Petronas, the team reports that “Lewis is now isolating in accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines.” Of course, we wish him a speedy recovery and a swift return to the track.