George Russell’s patience has been rewarded. The Williams driver is in the Mercedes’ program since 2017 and he was one of the top names to replace Bottas before his confirmation earlier this year. Lewis Hamilton yesterday tested positive to Covid-19 and a bunch of names came out as his substitutes: Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg and obviously George Russell.
Russell – who will be the third Briton to race in Mercedes, after Sir Stirling Moss and Hamilton himself- has been the correct choice. Being an active F1 driver he knows how a 2020 F1 car is made and he tested the W11 before this troubled season starts so he can finally leave the underdog Williams’ performances behind and have a shot at the best car on the track. This means that Valtteri Bottas has to sleep with an eye opened as the Finn cannot risk to be outshined by him because this would risk his possible future place in 2022.
“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”,- stated 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. 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."
Russell will race in Sakhir but there is going to be further updates about Abu Dhabi. “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. – Russell states - 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. 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.”
Very few people are lucky enough to drive for an @F1 team each year. I'm about to get the chance to drive for two.— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) December 2, 2020
Unbelievably grateful to @WilliamsRacing and @MercedesAMGF1 for this opportunity.
Thank you all 🙏 pic.twitter.com/x2ZGMWOX8A
With the official Williams’ driver loaned to Mercedes, there is a free spot in Williams, which will be taken by Jack Aitken. The 25-year old is indeed Williams’ reserve driver and is ready to finally race in a Grand Prix . “I’m absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to make my debut with Williams this coming weekend and I am extremely happy for George to have his chance too!- Aitken said - I really mean it when I say I’ve felt very much at home here since I joined Williams earlier this year, so to get my chance to help the team try to achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least. I’ll be doing all I can to prepare in the coming days, but truthfully, I feel like I have been ready since Melbourne. I also want to wish Lewis well in his recovery, and good luck to George getting the chance to drive the Mercedes this weekend.”
It seems like this unconventional season is about to end just like it started- in a set of endless surprises.