Lewis Hamilton’s positive test for COVID-19 this week is causing a bit of a musical chairs game in Formula 1 ahead of the F1 Shakhir Grand Prix on Sunday in Bahrain.
Mercedes has acquired George Russell from the Williams F1 team to replace Hamilton. Meanwhile, Williams is turning to reserve driver Jack Aitken to race in the place of Russell at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix alongside Nicholas Latifi.
Williams is a sister team to Mercedes.
Aitken, 25, is currently Williams’ reserve driver. He races in Formula 2, where he has scored two podiums and is 14th in the standings with two points races to go this weekend in Bahrain. Aitken participated in a FP1 session earlier in the season at the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria.
Aitken will be one of two reserve drivers in this weekend’s race field. Pietro Fittipaldi is replacing injured Romain Grosjean at Haas.
The status of both Hamilton and Grosjean is uncertain for the final race of the Formula 1 season at Abu Dhabi on Dec. 13.
Russell will be just the fifth driver to race for Mercedes F1 since 2010, joining a list that includes, Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Russell is just the third Brit to represent Mercedes on an F1 grid. Stirling Moss and Hamilton are the others.
Russell, who is in his second year with Williams, has been a part of the Mercedes Junior Program since 2017. He’s currently 21st (out of 21) in the F1 Drivers’ Championship but is coming off one of his best drives of the season when he finished 12th this past week in Bahrain.
“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,” said Mercedes team principal 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 tires 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.”
Russell will be the first graduate of the Mercedes Junior Program to make it to a seat with the Mercedes F1 team.
“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 maximize our points score as a team,” Wolff said. “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.”
With Lewis Hamilton out of this week’s race does that make you more, or less, likely to watch the F1 Sakhir Grand Prix. Let us know in the comments section below.
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