‘Shame we can’t see Russell in the Mercedes again’

Date published: December 11 2020

George Russell-PA

Williams boss Simon Roberts said it was a shame that George Russell missed out on another Mercedes drive, but welcomed him back to the team.

Russell was called up to make his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix as a stand-in for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time World Champion tested positive for COVID-19.

And Russell headed to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix initially in Mercedes mode, but when Hamilton returned a negative test, his return was confirmed and Russell went back to his Williams duties for the last race of the season.

That also meant that Jack Aitken, who replaced Russell in Sakhir, is also back on the sidelines.

So, Roberts knows Russell will be a little disappointed, but the team made sure to give him a warm welcome upon his return.

“It feels like he’s come home for the weekend, which is really nice,” Roberts told reporters at Yas Marina Circuit.

“I’m sure he’s a bit disappointed inside but we gave him a really, really warm welcome back, we’re really, genuinely pleased to see him.”

Russell could well have won the Sakhir GP on his Mercedes debut if it wasn’t for a blunder in the pits from the Silver Arrows and later a puncture.

So while everyone was relieved to hear that Hamilton was back to full health, some were disappointed that Russell won’t be getting another chance in the W11.

And Roberts can be included in that group, calling it a “shame” that we won’t get to see Russell with Mercedes again in Abu Dhabi, especially since Williams would have liked Aitken to get another opportunity with them having been impressed with his debut race weekend.

“We’d seen [Aitken] in the car in Austria and he adopted a similar approach, he starts well, he builds through the weekend. He built through first practice,” Roberts explained.

“He’s very competent in the car, gave us good feedback. It wasn’t like we had a complete rookie in the car. He’s been in our simulator, he knows the team well. So he slotted in really, really well.

“In a way it’s a shame we couldn’t see him again this weekend just as it’s a shame we couldn’t see George in the Mercedes again this weekend because I think it’s a big ask.

“We didn’t overload Jack, we were careful with him. We made sure we built up the way the car works through the weekend. We gave him just enough to get the job done.

“But by the time we got into quali and the race, he was as up to speed with our car as we expected and delivered a good result. We wanted him to push and he did. So we were really, really pleased with what he achieved over the weekend.”

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After his performance in Sakhir there were quiet rumours that Russell could even head to Mercedes for 2021 – Valtteri Bottas delivered a sub-par display around the Outer Circuit, while Hamilton is yet to sign up for next year.

But Roberts remains confident that Russell and Nicholas Latifi will form Williams’ line-up for 2021.

“We’ve got Nicholas and George signed for next year and the main thing we’re working on right now is just making sure we can give them the best car possible,” he said.

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