Bangkok Desk, Dec 2 (efe-epa).- Williams Racing Formula One driver George Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after the seven-time world champion tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Mercedes announced Wednesday.
Russell, part of the Mercedes Formula One team’s Young Driver Programme, will replace Hamilton for the weekend after this year’s champion entered isolation following his positive COVID-19 test Tuesday.
“First and foremost, I wish to thank our loyal partners at Williams for their collaboration and open-mindedness in making it possible for George to race for Mercedes this weekend,” Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said in a statement published on Twitter, praising Russell for his performances this year.
Wolff said the Williams driver was ready to race and knew the 2020 tire performance in the car, adding that he’d be a strong performer alongside Mercedes’ other driver Valtteri Bottas.
“George has shown impressive form this year with Williams, playing an instrumental role in their climb up the grid,” Wolff said.
Though the 22-year-old Briton has yet to score a point since his Formula One debut in 2019 – partly due to the poor performance of the Williams car – he has never been out-qualified by his teammates and has regularly made it to the second qualifying round of races.
Replacing Russell will be current Formula Two driver Jack Aitken, 25, who competes for Campos Racing in the sport’s second tier and had tested for Williams earlier this year. He will partner Williams’ other driver, 25-year-old Canadian Nicholas Latifi.
“I’m extremely excited to be making my Formula One debut with Williams this weekend, I can’t thank you enough for the trust the teams are showing in putting me in the car,” Aitken said in a video posted to the Williams Racing Twitter account. Aitken added that he was ready despite not expecting to be driving and said he wished Hamilton a quick recovery.
Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles three weeks ago after winning the Turkish Grand Prix, having earlier surpassed his tally of 91 race victories.
This weekend’s race is the second in a row in Bahrain, where the track layout will be modified to feature a more circular circuit. Lap times are expected to go below the one-minute mark for the first time in Formula One history. EFE-EPA