It’s not often a seat in the fastest car on the F1 grid becomes available, but that’s exactly what’s happened due to Mercedes-AMG F1’s Lewis Hamilton testing positive for Covid-19. The British driver is said to be doing well, but the test result means he’s out of action for the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, and potentially the final round in Abu Dhabi also.
Speculation regarding who would be chosen for this ultimate F1 subbing opportunity was rife on Tuesday, but now Mercedes has made an announcement. The team is going with George Russell, the Williams driver who’s been in the company’s Junior Programme since 2017.
“Nobody can replace this guy, but I’ll give my all for the team in his absence from the moment I step in the car…Get well soon Lewis,” the driver said on Twitter. Russell started racing for Williams in 2019, although he famously tried to secure a seat at the team a year earlier using a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. Replacing him for Sakhir will be Formula 2 driver Jack Aitken, who’ll be making his F1 debut alongside fellow newcomer Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas’ sub for Romain Grosjean following last weekend’s huge crash.
Commenting on the news, Mercedes Team Principle Toto Wolff said:
“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.”
“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.”
Mercedes, meanwhile, says that it will announce its driver plans for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix “in due course.”