Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday after he experienced "mild symptoms." He is out of the Sakhir Grand Prix, so the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team is turning to another driver. George Russell will replace Hamilton and strive to find success in the winningest car of the 2020 season.
Williams, a Mercedes engine customer, agreed to release Russell from his contract for this weekend so he could replace Hamilton. Reserve driver Jack Aitken will replace Russell for the Sakhir GP. According to ESPN, Russell is signed to the Williams team until the end of the 2021 season. However, he is also managed by Mercedes and has a separate long-term contract with the manufacturer.
Can you name the other two? 😜 pic.twitter.com/Isrn4pkoTi— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 2, 2020
"Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity," Russell said in a statement on Wednesday. "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."
As a Williams driver, there are questions about Russell beyond the Sakhir Grand Prix. There is a scenario in which Hamilton fails to return negative coronavirus tests in time to compete in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. If he remains away from the Mercedes team, Russell could replace him for a second consecutive race — although ESPN reports that it is unclear whether there is an option to release him from the contract for Abu Dhabi.
Russell has not scored a point in his 36 F1 starts. ESPN reports that this lack of success is due to Williams not being as competitive of a team as its peers. Russell has regularly outperformed his teammates — Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi — in qualifying sessions.