George Russell unexpectedly had the chance to race in the champion’s car this weekend in Sakhir, replacing Lewis Hamilton, who tested positive for Covid-19.
The Briton cruised to success last Sunday and displayed mild symptoms after the race. Ultimately he took another test, which came back positive. The driver feels good now, but will not be able to participate in the next race. Therefore, the Mercedes was left without a driver. Many wondered which driver the team would invite to take the place of its champion. Obviously, there was not a sensation – Toto Wolff invited Mercedes protégé George Russell.
After the official announcement of the news on Wednesday, the young driver told what happened to him during these crazy, firstly for himself, 24 hours.
"I got a phone call from Toto at 2am on Tuesday morning," said driver. "I was actually in the bathroom at that moment, which was slightly awkward. He answered the phone and said, 'George, are you in the bathroom?' and I said, 'Sorry, I am in the bathroom'.
"And he said 'unfortunately Lewis has caught Covid, he's doing well, he's healthy and feels fine which is the most important, but we want you to drive'. And then [I had] a bit of a sleepless night and we made it happen throughout the following day.
"It means a huge amount to me that Mercedes gave me this opportunity because it was not easy for them," he added. "It was a lot of effort went into making this deal happen and… I really appreciate what they've done and logistically getting helmets painted in the course of 24 hours, suits made and flown over from Italy to the UK to Bahrain.
"There's so many things that have had to happen in the course of such a short period of time. Knowing they were willing to do that means a lot to me and I guess I have to repay that with my best performance and my best efforts, regardless of what position that may mean."
Social media are already full of questions, starting with "What if Russell wins the race?'. The driver himself tries to stay away from such great plans, and says that the important thing for him is just to do his job as efficiently and successfully as possible and learn many things with the top team.
"From my side, I think there's no pressure," Russell said. "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. I think I'm in a good position, I'm not putting any additional pressure on myself.
"I'm going to go out there, I'm going to enjoy it and there's been no targets, no expectations expected from me by Toto, by Mercedes, because you can't judge somebody off the back of one race I think. This weekend's all going to be about learning, especially Friday. Focus towards qualifying and into the race on Sunday, and if I get the opportunity next week again in Abu Dhabi, who knows? That will be easier for me."