Williams Racing‘s George Russell with step in to the world championship winning car this weekend in Bahrain for the Sakhir Grand Prix, as replacement for World Champion Lewis Hamilton who it was announced has tested positive for COVID-19.
George, who remains part of the Mercedes’ driver programme and now in his second full season in Formula 1 was chosen ahead of Mercedes’ reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne (which raises the question ‘what is the point of reserve drivers?’), presumably as a result of his efforts in a below-par Williams this year, and almost two years of contemporary Grand Prix car experience – Vandoorne’s last competitive F1 outing being in 2018.
It won’t be George’s first outing in a Mercedes Formula 1 car – he last drove a W10 at the Pirelli tyre test at Abu Dhabi late in 2019 topping the timesheets, proving he was more than capable of stepping up to the level required by the World Champions as and when they give him the call.
George is still conspicuously without a point in his 36 starts – a current F1 record – and now has his best opportunity yet of getting off the mark, albeit sadly not with Williams.
While the pressure is now on George to deliver in Grand Prix’s biggest job interview (he gets it right this weekend and a 2022 drive is all but his), another man who will perhaps find himself under even more scrutiny is Mercedes other driver, Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas has proven himself incapable of challenging team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and has been on the end of some very harsh criticism of late after a handful of woeful performances, in a car that is undoubtedly the class of the field. The fact that Bottas finds himself 131 points (or five whole race wins!) adrift of Hamilton and a mere 12 ahead of third placed Max Verstappen.
Indeed it is thought by many people that Bottas’ job now is simply to keep the second Mercedes ticking over until Russell joins in 2022.
Replacing him at Williams for the Sakhir Grand Prix is F2 race winner Jack Aitken – Williams’ current reserve driver – who makes his Formula 1 debut.
Best of luck to both of them!