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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 March 2021

George Russell to stand in for F1 champion Lewis Hamilton at Sakhir Grand Prix

Jack Aitken, the Williams reserve, will make his F1 debut as Russell's replacement

Williams' British driver George Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes at this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix. AFP
Williams' British driver George Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes at this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix. AFP

Britain's George Russell will stand in at Mercedes for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix after the seven-time Formula One world champion tested positive for Covid-19, Russell's Williams team said on Wednesday.

Williams said Britain's Jack Aitken, their official reserve driver, will make his F1 debut as Russell's replacement alongside Canadian regular Nicholas Latifi.

"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," said Mercedes principal Toto Wolff.

"The conversations with the team at Williams were positive and pragmatic, and those were the key factors in reaching an agreement."

Russell, 22, will be only the fifth driver to race for Mercedes since 2010 and the third Briton to do so in the Formula One world championship after Stirling Moss and Hamilton.

Russell, a former GP3 and Formula Two champion who has impressed in an uncompetitive car this year, will line up alongside Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas.

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

"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."

"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," added the Briton, who has yet to score a point in Formula One.

Hamilton secured a record-equalling seventh F1 drivers' title last month at the Turkish Grand Prix while Mercedes have already wrapped up a seventh straight constructors' title.

The Briton is in isolation after his positive result was announced on Tuesday morning, two days after his 11th victory of 2020 at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton is the third F1 driver to test positive for Covid-19 this season, following Sergio Perez at Silverstone and Lance Stroll in Germany.

The 35-year-old will miss this weekend's race in Sakhir as well as the season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13.

Mick Schumacher will make his F1 debut with Haas in 2021. Reuters
Mick Schumacher will make his F1 debut with Haas in 2021. Reuters

Schumacher signs for Haas

In other driver news announced on Wednesday, Haas have confirmed Mick Schumacher – son of the great Michael Schumacher – will be racing for the team from the 2021 season.

Schumacher, who leads the Formula Two standings, will make an early start to his preparations as a full-time F1 driver when he takes part in practice for the Etihad Airways Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, December 11.

He will then remain in the UAE capital to participate in the end of season young driver test at Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday December 15.

“The prospect of being on the Formula One grid next year makes me incredibly happy and I’m simply speechless,” Schumacher said.

“I would like to thank Haas F1 Team, Scuderia Ferrari and the Ferrari Driver Academy for placing their trust in me. I also want to acknowledge and extend my love to my parents – I know that I owe them everything. I have always believed that I would realise my dream of Formula 1."

Schumacher follows in the footsteps of his father Michael, one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time who won a record seven drivers' title - a record recently matched by Hamilton. His uncle Ralf was also a Formula One driver and won six races over the course of his career.

Updated: December 2, 2020 12:28 PM

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