George Russell
George Russell, the young driver of Williams Racing who has been released to race for Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, will be keen to lap up the opportunity. Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has announced George Russell as the replacement for seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

Hamilton is unable to take part in the last two races of the season after testing positive for COVID-19 late on Monday.

Russell has therefore been released by partner team Williams Racing in order to join Mercedes at least for this weekend in Bahrain. The 22-year-old Englishman becomes just the fifth driver to race for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team since 2010, and the third Briton to represent Mercedes-Benz in F1 after Sir Stirling Moss and Hamilton.

Russell was the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Champion for ART and the GP3 Series Champion in 2017.

Born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, the youngest child of Steve and Alison, Russell took up karting at the age of seven, having spent much of his time around karting tracks and his older brother Benjy, who was also involved in competitive karting.

Growing up in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, Russell was educated at the Wisbech Grammar School before moving to Milton Keynes at 18 years so that he could be closer to his racing teams.

Russell has been a member of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Programme since 2017 when he won the GP3 Series championship as a rookie, before repeating the feat in Formula 2 in 2018. He has been a fully-fledged Formula One race driver with Williams Racing since 2019, demonstrating impressive qualifying and race performances during the past two seasons.

“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. The conversations with the team at Williams were positive and pragmatic, and those were the key factors in reaching an agreement,” Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff said in his official statement.

“It will not be a straightforward task for George to make the transition from the Williams to the W11, but he is race-ready and has detailed understanding of the 2020 tyres and how they perform on this generation of cars. George has shown impressive form this year with Williams, playing an instrumental role in their climb up the grid, and I am optimistic that he will deliver a strong performance alongside Valtteri [Bottas], who will be a demanding reference for him,” he added.

This weekend’s race will be rare for the Mercedes set-up. “This race will mark a small milestone for us, as we see a member of our junior programme compete for the works Mercedes team for the first time. We have a job to do this weekend, and the full focus of our sporting efforts will be behind Valtteri and George in order to maximise our points score as a team,” Wolff said.

“But, of course, our thoughts are also with Lewis, and we will be supporting him as much as we can to make a rapid recovery during his period of self-isolation,” he added.

The team’s driver plans for the season-finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit will be announced in due course following the race weekend.