Stepping into Lewis Hamilton’s W11 for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Lando Norris reckons George Russell can achieve both pole position and the race win.
Mercedes announced on Tuesday that Hamilton would not be on the starting grid for the second of the two Bahrain races having tested positive for the Covid-19.
Following FIA protocols, Hamilton, who is experiencing “mild symptoms”, is in self-isolation.
Mercedes have turned to Russell as the substitute driver, with the Brit swapping his back-of-the-grid Williams for the best car in the field.
Norris believes his good mate will finally be able to show Formula 1 what he is capable of.
“I think he can achieve a pole,” Norris told the official F1 website. “I think he can achieve a win.
“I think if there’s any weekend maybe Mercedes have a smaller advantage than any other weekend, it’s probably here, so he’s taken a step up into the team at probably one of the toughest weekends of the year, in terms of their advantage that they probably have over the rest of the field.
“So it’s not going to be easy for him, but I know how good of a driver he is and I’m sure everyone else does too, and I’m sure of course Mercedes do as well.
“I’m expecting big things; of course I may be slightly jealous if he gets an extremely good result like a win, but I’ll just be happy for him and I look forward to hopefully being able to fight him again.”
Russell, in his second season in Formula 1 with Williams, has yet to score a single point.
The McLaren driver was one of the first to congratulate Russell on his one-off promotion.
He does, however, acknowledge that the 22-year-old has some “big boots” to fill.
“I’m very happy for George,” he said. “I sent him a message the night before it was confirmed saying congrats, although it wasn’t confirmed at that point, and then again I messaged the next day when it was confirmed.
“We’re obviously good mates, we get along really well, and it’s nice to see one of your mates go into a top seat like that.
“He’s got big boots to fill, from a seven-time World Champion, so I wish him all the best.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for him, but he’s driven [a Mercedes] a few times, he’s part of the Mercedes family, so it’s not completely new for him, like it is maybe for Aitken as much at Williams.
“So it will be nice to see him up there. Maybe hopefully I can fight with him a little bit more, but we’ve had good fights this year so hopefully that continues this weekend.”
Williams have drafted in Jack Aitken as Russell’s replacement.