Wolff thanks Williams for ‘pragmatic’ Russell talks

Jon Wilde
Toto Wolff has thanked Williams for the “positive and pragmatic” talks that allowed George Russell to join Mercedes for the Sakhir Grand Prix.

George Russell Mercedes cap

Toto Wolff has thanked Williams for the “positive and pragmatic” talks that allowed George Russell to join Mercedes for the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell, a member of the Mercedes junior programme, has been released by Williams to cover for Lewis Hamilton while the seven-time World Champion recovers from COVID-19.

Hamilton, who has won the last five F1 races and 11 out of 15 this season, is currently spending 10 days in self-isolation after experiencing mild symptoms of the coronavirus, which meant Mercedes needed to find a replacement for the penultimate 2020 grand prix.

Although the constructors’ World Champions will have official reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne on hand at the Bahrain International Circuit, their approach for Russell has been successful and the 22-year-old will line up alongside Valtteri Bottas. In turn, Jack Aitken will make his F1 debut for Williams.

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In a statement, team principal Wolff said: “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.

“It will not be a straightforward task for George to make the transition from Williams to the W11, but he is race-ready and has detailed understanding of the 2020 tyres 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 he will deliver a strong performance alongside Valtteri, who will be a demanding reference for him.”

Russell has long since been earmarked as next in line for a Mercedes drive when either Hamilton or Bottas move on. But this opportunity, however temporary, arrives earlier than he or the team would have expected.

Wolff added: “This race will mark a small milestone for us, as we see a member of our Junior programme compete for the works Mercedes team for the first time.

“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 maximise our points score as a team.

“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.”

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