According to reports, Mercedes want George Russell to replace Lewis Hamilton for the Sakhir GP, with Stoffel Vandoorne a backup option.
When it was announced that Hamilton had tested positive for COVID-19 and would miss the upcoming race in Bahrain, talk immediately talked to who would replace him.
Two drivers quickly emerged as the frontrunners in the eyes of many: Russell and Vandoorne. The latter drives for Williams but is part of the Mercedes family, while the latter is the team’s reserve driver.
According to the BBC, Toto Wolff and co want to give Russell a chance in the W11 and have already approached Williams about the possibility of such a move.
Talks between the two parties are reportedly ‘ongoing’, and Stoffel Vandoorne, who will be in Bahrain anyway, will get the nod if an agreement can’t be reached.
The Italian branch of Motorsport has made similar claims, stating that “Mercedes will try to ask Williams for George Russell’s availability, in the hope that the English team will give the okay.”
Ultimately, with Russell under contract, Williams holds the cars entirely in terms of what happens. The British team has previously blocked the possibility of Mercedes considering Russell for a 2021 seat.
However, that was when Clarie Williams was in charge, and the new owners seem to be less protective of Russell, even briefly considering dropping him for Sergio Perez earlier this year.
In terms of who would drive in Russell’s place, the report states that that hasn’t been looked into yet, but as the team’s reserved river, Jack Aitken would be the most likely option.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 1, 2020
Hamilton is going to miss a race weekend for the first time since he entered Formula 1 in 2007. It may be inconsequential as he already has title number seven wrapped up, but he says he’s devastated nonetheless.
“Hi guys. I’m devastated that I won’t be racing this weekend,” he tweeted.
“Since we started the season in June, my team and I have been taking all the precautions we possibly can and following the regulations everywhere we’ve been in order to stay safe.
“Unfortunately, even though I returned three negative results this past week, I woke up yesterday morning with mild symptoms and requested another test which came back positive. I’ve immediately gone into self-isolation for 10 days.
“I’m gutted not to be able to race this weekend but my priority is to follow the protocols and advice to protect others.
“I’m really lucky that I feel OK with only mild symptoms and will do my best to stay fit and healthy.
“Please look after yourselves out there. You can never be too careful. These are worrying times for everyone and we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and each other. Stay positive.”