Formula 1

Russell and Aitken Gain Opportunities for Sakhir Grand Prix

By: Ashley McCubbin

George Russell and Jack Aitkin are about to get opportunities they have waited a long time for, all courtesy of Lewis Hamilton being forced to miss this weekend’s event.

Russell has been announced as Hamilton’s replacement for the event this weekend, after the seven-time World Champion tested positive for COVID-19.

“Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity,” Russell said. “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.”

Russell has been competing in Formula 1 the past two years for William Racing, scoring a season-best 11th is Tuscany. But he has history with Mercedes, virtue of participating in tests with them previously. There was also discussions for him to join Mercedes previously, but put on hold due to being stuck in contract with Williams.

“Our long-term partnership and George’s affiliation with Mercedes is no secret, and so I’m delighted George has this unique opportunity to join Mercedes, the current Constructors’ Champions,” said Williams’ Acting Team Principal, Simon Roberts. “We have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to allow him this fantastic opportunity. George very much remains a Williams driver and we look forward to him returning to us fresh from this experience and wish him a successful race this weekend.”

As a result, F2 competitor Jack Aitken will get to make his Formula 1 debut with Williams this weekend.

“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.”

As their reserve driver, he has experience with the team and engineers, having attended several events in 2020 and driving in FP1 at this year’s Styrian Grand Prix. The 25-year-old spent this past year in Formula 2, scoring a pair of podiums and eight other points finishes.

Williams Acting Team Principal Simon Roberts added, “Our long-term partnership and George’s affiliation with Mercedes is no secret, and so I’m delighted George has this unique opportunity to join Mercedes, the current Constructors’ Champions. We are also thrilled this means we are able to give another British talent in Jack Aitken the opportunity to make his Formula One race debut. Jack joined Williams at the start of this season, and despite COVID-19 restrictions meaning we haven’t been able to interact with him as much as we would like, he has quickly become a much-liked member of the team.

“We look forward to seeing him build on his previous experience driving the car in practice, to see what he can do in a qualifying and race situation.”

Mercesdes added the deal could be extended to Abu Dhabi if Hamilton is unable to return.

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