Williams driver George Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes for next weekend’s Saheehir Grand Prix after Hamilton was tested in Kowid-19 on Monday.
Williams, who is a Mercedes engine customer, agreed to start the 22-year-old race this weekend and announced that it will replace Russell with his replacement driver Jack Aitken.
Russell has a contract with Williams until the end of 2021, but he is driven by a Mercedes and has a separate long-term contract with the world champions.
When the news of Hamilton’s positive test came on Monday, Mercedes contacted Williams about Russell’s availability, and as soon as the deal was closed, both teams confirmed that the driver had changed seats on Wednesday morning.
It is unclear whether Russell can be exempted from his contract with Williams and extend his contract until next weekend Abu Dhabi Grand Prix if Hamilton can not deliver a negative COVID 19 test result in time.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Mario Rienzi – Formula 1 from Getty Images
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone at Williams for giving me this opportunity, Russell said. I may be wearing a different racing suit this weekend, but I’m a Williams driver and I keep my fingers crossed for my team in every corner.
I see this as a great opportunity to learn from the best equipment on the grid and come back as an improved driver with even more energy and experience to help Williams make progress on the grid. Thank you and Mercedes for trusting me.
Of course no one can replace Lewis, but I give the team all my strength in his absence as soon as I get in the car. Above all, I wish him a speedy recovery.
Mercedes team leader Toto Wolf added: First of all, I would like to thank our loyal Williams partners for their cooperation and openness, which allowed George to attend the Mercedes this weekend.
The discussions with the Williams team were positive and pragmatic, which was an important factor in reaching an agreement.
He didn’t score a single point in his 36 Formula 1 starts, although this was largely due to Williams’ lack of competitiveness. In qualifying, he has beaten his two teammates Robert Kubitsu and Nicolas Latifi in every Grand Prix since his debut.
Russell knows the Mercedes team and spent four days officially testing with the world champions, the last time he visited Bahrain last year.
He has been identified as a potential replacement for Waltery Bottas in 2022, and this weekend the two riders will be identified as teammates.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Toto Wolf, the boss of Mercedes, tries to find a place in F1 for George Russell and Esteban Window for 2019. Paul Ripke/Mercedes
The move from Williams to W11 won’t be easy for George, but he’s race-ready and has a detailed understanding of 2020 tyres and how they work in this generation of cars, Wolff added. George has shown impressive form this year, with Williams playing a crucial role in their climb on the grid, and I’m optimistic that with Valtteri, who will be a demanding reference for him, he’ll deliver a solid performance.
This race will be a small milestone for us, because it is the first time that we see a participant from our youth program competing for the Mercedes work team. We have a lot to do this weekend and all our sporting efforts will be focused on Valtteri and George to maximize our points in the team.
But of course our thoughts are with Lewis, and we will do our best to support him so that he can quickly recover from his period of isolation.
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