Williams’ George Russell stole the headlines with a stellar performance in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix – the second of two at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain – but disappointingly for Williams fans, his fight for the win wasn’t a sign of an incredible resurgence in the team’s fortunes.
No, George was able to show what we’ve known for a couple of years now – that he’s capable of fighting for wins and titles with the best drivers in F1 – thanks to his temporary switch to the World Championship winning Mercedes F1 team, as 2020 champ Lewis Hamilton sat out a round as the result of a positive COVID test.
George aced first and second practice, before practically matching (within milliseconds of) Mercedes’ regular driver Valttieri Bottas in qualifying, before nailing his first front row start – for so long his bête noire – and establishing a commanding lead before succumbing to a botched pitstop and a slow puncture, eventually crossing the line in 9th place (with fastest lap) for his first points in Formula 1.
Over at Williams, Formula 1 debutant Jack Aitken – stepping into the FW43 vacated by George – made a solid start to his F1 career, qualifying a mere tenth behind team mate Latifi and ahead of former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Aitken was able to move up a handful of positions, running in 15th before dropping it at the final turn and losing his front wing at two-thirds distance (ironically – in Russell’s car – bringing out the safety car that led to GR’s race falling to pieces), eventually bringing his car home in 17th.
Nicholas Latifi fared less well, an oil leak bringing a premature end to his race whilst in 17th place.
It was a massively disrupted Grand Prix for the team and one that is unlikely to be repeated, but everyone emerged from the chaos with a great deal of credit – Russell proves he belongs at the sharp end of the grid, Aitken looked perfectly at home on his first Grand Prix start, and Williams showed they are versatile enough that they can cope without their #1 driver and draft in a capable replacement at short notice.
Still no points for Williams in 2020 though – one more chance! On to Abu Dhabi this coming weekend.