Williams driver George Russell will step into Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes this weekend in Bahrain after being chosen to replace the COVID-stricken seven time world champion.
Fresh from winning at the same track last weekend, Hamilton tested positive for the virus on Tuesday (AEDT) causing him to miss the Sakhir Grand Prix this weekend.
When this happened at Force India this season with Sergio Perez, former Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was drafted in to replace him for two races.
However, Mercedes has instead opted for Russell, who has had a long-standing association with the team having joined the junior programme in 2017.
Watch The Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020 Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
Russell is coming to the end of his second season in F1 and while he has generally been impressive, he is yet to win a point while fighting at the back of the field with Williams.
But he will now surely be amongst the favourites to win this weekend given he is stepping into a car which has just claimed the world championship for a seventh-consecutive year.
“Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity,” said Russell.
“I might be wearing a different race suit this weekend, but I’m a Williams driver and I’ll be cheering my team on every step of the way.
“I see this as a great chance to learn from the best outfit on the grid right now and to come back as an improved driver, with even more energy and experience to help push Williams further up the grid.
“A big thank you also to Mercedes for putting their faith in me. Obviously, nobody can replace Lewis, but I’ll give my all for the team in his absence from the moment I step in the car.
“Most importantly, I wish him a speedy recovery. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and can’t wait to get out on track this week.”
Williams will replace Russell with their own reserve team driver Jack Aitken, who will be making his Formula 1 debut.
The 25-year-old has spent nearly three seasons in Formula 2 and participated in Practice 1 at the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring earlier this year.
“I’m absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to make my debut with Williams this coming weekend and I am extremely happy for George to have his chance too,” said Aitken.
“I really mean it when I say I’ve felt very much at home here since I joined Williams earlier this year, so to get my chance to help the team try to achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least.
“I’ll be doing all I can to prepare in the coming days, but truthfully, I feel like I have been ready since Melbourne.
“I also want to wish Lewis well in his recovery, and good luck to George getting the chance to drive the Mercedes this weekend.”