George Russell will drive for Mercedes in place of Lewis Hamilton, who has tested positive for coronavirus, in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Recently-crowned world champion Hamilton, 35, was ruled out of the penultimate round of the Formula One championship after contracting coronavirus this week.
‘Very few people are lucky enough to drive for an @F1 team each year and I’m about to get the chance to drive for two,’ said Englishman Russell, 22, on Twitter.
Russell’s career has been backed by Mercedes since 2017 and he is effectively on a three-year loan at Williams, for whom he raced in last Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Williams driver George Russell will drive for Mercedes this weekend, replacing world champion Lewis Hamilton after his positive Covid-19 test
Hamilton has tested positive for coronavirus and has had mild symptoms since Monday. Here he is pictured on November 29 after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix
Hamilton’s statement after testing positive for coronavirus, ruling him out of this week’s race
He added: ‘Unbelievably grateful to Williams and Mercedes for this opportunity.’
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: ‘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.
‘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.
Hamilton won his seventh Formula One title on November 15 in Turkey before returning home to Monaco the same evening. The next day, he filmed himself going for a run along the beach and said that he was feeling ‘blessed and grateful’
On November 22, Hamilton posted a video on Instagram of him playing tennis with his father, Anthony, and revealed how he they have both been working hard at getting better at the sport
Timeline: Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus
Sunday, November 15: Lewis Hamilton wins the Turkish Grand Prix, securing his seventh Formula One world championship.
Later that evening, he posts a video of himself in his apartment in Monaco enjoying minestrone soup and rewatching the race.
Monday, November 16: Hamilton posts a video of himself jogging along the beach in Monaco, without anybody else in sight.
Sunday, November 22: Hamilton and his father Anthony are filmed enjoying a game of tennis in Monaco. Hamilton tweeted about celebrating his title win with ‘family’ – though it is unclear which other family members joined him.
Wednesday, November 25: In another video, the Mercedes driver could be seen travelling in the same car alongside Anthony and his friend Daniel ‘Spinz’ Forrest.
While both his father and Forrest were wearing masks, Hamilton did not have a face covering on. It is unknown when or where the video was taken, though it appears to have been posted on November 25.
Thursday, November 26: The F1 world champion is pictured arriving at the Bahrain International Circuit with his dog Roscoe and a team member.
November 27 – November 29: Hamilton takes part in practice, qualifying and the race itself, winning the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Monday, November 30: Mercedes confirm Hamilton tested positive twice for coronavirus on Monday, while adding that a contact from before his arrival in Bahrain has also tested positive.
‘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.
‘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.’
British-Korean driver Jack Aitken will take Russell’s place on the grid for Williams this weekend.
‘I can’t believe this, but I will make my F1 debut with Williams this weekend,’ the 25-year-old said.
‘Huge thank you to them, and obviously my best wishes to Lewis, and George making the step into the Mercedes.’
Russell has impressed for Williams this year with an immaculate qualifying record but is so far, after 36 races, yet to score a point in F1.
Williams deputy team boss Claire Williams has said she ‘firmly believes’ he will win world titles one day.
She added: ‘George has the whole package. He looks like an unassuming, nice guy, but he has a layer of steel within him which he has been taught by his parents.
‘He hasn’t had a silver motor racing spoon in his mouth since he was born. He hasn’t had it easy, and the family haven’t had it easy to get him to this point either.
‘He is fairly similar to Lewis Hamilton in that sense.’
Russell spent Britain’s first lockdown earlier this year – when F1 was in its own shutdown – training in the gym at his parents’ outhouse in Leicestershire.
He was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, and took up karting at the age of seven. After growing up in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and being educated at Wisbech Grammar School, he moved to Milton Keynes at 18 to be closer to his racing teams.
As Sportsmail reported on Tuesday night, Hamilton’s season could now be over following his positive test.
The seven-time world champion is ‘devastated’ to miss this Sunday’s race in Bahrain and his participation in the season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend is also in doubt.
Hamilton, who has ‘mild symptoms’ and is ‘otherwise fit and well’, is self-isolating at his hotel for 10 days, which means he is unlikely to be allowed into Abu Dhabi.
Owing to Covid restrictions, all Formula One personnel are travelling there from Bahrain on Monday, December 7, after which the whole country will effectively be locked down.
Once in Abu Dhabi, the travelling contingent will be encamped at mandated hotels on Yas Island in a secure bubble close to the track.
That means Hamilton, who would not be allowed to leave self-isolation until December 9, a week today, would require special dispensation to arrive later.
He tested positive on Monday, less than 24 hours after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix. He was informed that ‘a contact prior to his arrival’ had also contracted Covid.
Russell (bottom row, centre right) celebrates Hamilton’s glory with the Mercedes team in 2018
Russell (right) racing for Williams as Hamilton won at the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday
British-Korean driver Jack Aitken will take Russell’s place on the grid for Williams this weekend
Hamilton, who spent time on holiday in Dubai with his family and close friends before coming to Bahrain, said: ‘I am devastated that I won’t be racing this weekend.
‘Since we started the season in June my team and I have been taking all the precautions we possibly can and following the regulations in order to stay safe.
‘Unfortunately, even though I returned three negative results this past week, I woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and requested another test which came back positive.
‘Please look after yourselves out there, you can never be too careful. These are worrying times for everyone and we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and each other.’
Hamilton arrived in Bahrain on November 26 having spent two weeks at home in Monaco celebrating his F1 world championship.
A mask-less Hamilton enjoying a ride in a Lamborghini with his father. It is unclear when this photo was taken
He could also be seen travelling in the same car alongside his friend Daniel ‘Spinz’ Forrest
He secured the title after winning the Turkish Grand Prix on November 15 and flew home on the same evening.
While in Monaco, he enjoyed a run on the beach and a game of tennis with his father Anthony in videos shared to social media, where he also spoke about celebrating his title win ‘with family’. It is unclear which other family members celebrated with him.
In another video, the Mercedes driver could be seen travelling in the same car alongside Anthony and his friend Daniel ‘Spinz’ Forrest.
While both his father and Forrest were wearing masks, Hamilton did not have a face covering on.
The date or location of the video are not known, though it appears to have been posted on social media on November 25, the day before Hamilton was seen at the track in Bahrain.
The world champion is now the third Formula One driver to have tested positive for Covid-19
It has also not been revealed if Anthony Hamilton or Forrest have tested positive.
It can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear after having contact with someone with the illness, suggesting Hamilton most likely contracted Covid in Monaco or very shortly after arriving in Bahrain.
Hamilton was seen exchanging elbow taps with members of the Mercedes team in the aftermath of his victory in Bahrain over the weekend.
His team say Hamilton was tested extensively last week, returning three negative results, including one on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The seven-time world champion, due to be knighted in the New Year’s Honours List, has not missed an F1 race since his debut in the sport in 2007 but will now sit on the sidelines for the penultimate race of the season.
Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning last Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. He was tested three times around the race – all were negative, but he then tested positive on Monday
Russell will now get his chance, having come through Mercedes’ young drivers scheme
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