Dec, 2nd 2020 – Williams driver George Russell is the leading contender to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix. Hamilton has been forced to withdraw from the race in Bahrain after testing positive for Covid-19. The seven time formula 1 world championship will be in isolation in his hotel room for 10 days.
A statement from F1 said, “The FIA, Formula One and Mercedes Team can today confirm that during mandatory pre-race PRC testing for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for Covid-19. In accordance with Covid-19 protocols, he is now isolating. All contacts have been declared. The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula One will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.”
Mercedes have guided Russell’s career since 2017 and have approached Williams to see if the team would release him. He was Mercedes reserve driver in 2018 before he was given a three year contract from 2019 the start of the season. He has been highly rated as a candidate for a potential future driver.
The 22 year old has tested several times for Mercedes and running him in Bahrain this weekend will be a good opportunity for the team to assess his development in a competitive environment.
The fallback position is for Mercedes to use their reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne who raced for McLaren in 2017 and 2018. V andoorne who races for Mercedes in formula E could potentially be made available in a swap or go for an experienced driver such as German Nico Hulkenbergn, whom after their drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll tested positive for coronavirus, was substituted three times at racing point in the season.
There is still talks and if an agreement can be reached for Russel to drive for Mercedes, it is not yet clear who will replace him at Williams. Their reserve driver is Briton Jack Aitken, who has not raced in F1 but is in his third season in Formula 2.
Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, is in the running, while the world champions could also turn to British driver George Russell.