Who is George Russell? Mercedes driver replacing Lewis Hamilton for Sakhir Grand Prix

George Russell will replace Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

Seven-time world champ Hamilton, was ruled out of the penultimate round of the season in Bahrain after contracting coronavirus and is now in self-isolation which could rule him out of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well. 

Mercedes quickly contacted Williams about the possibility with Russell excited for his opportunity.

“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 Russell. “Unbelievably grateful to Williams and Mercedes for this opportunity.”

Another Englishman, Jack Aitken, will now take Russell’s regular seat at Williams for his F1 debut.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Who is he?

Russell was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. He followed in his brother Benjy’s karting footsteps before graduating through the ranks and winning the GP3 and Formula Two championships in consecutive seasons. 

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His impressive performances convinced Mercedes to sign him to their academy. He competed in a number of young driver tests for the world champions, and was signed up by Williams in 2019.

What’s his F1 record?

Last weekend in Bahrain, Russell completed a minor piece of history by out-qualifying his team-mate for a 36th successive time – seeing off Robert Kubica over one lap in all rounds of his rookie campaign before outclassing his team-mate for this year, Nicholas Latifi, too. 

Russell’s unbeatable run saw him match a tally set by triple world champion Nelson Piquet between the 1979 Italian and 1982 Belgian Grands Prix. Only Michael Schumacher (56) and Ayrton Senna (44) have beaten their team-mates on a greater number of consecutive occasions over one lap.

Has he ever won a race?

Despite impressing over one lap in his sub-par Williams machinery, Russell is yet to score a single point in his F1 career, with a best finish of 12th on three occasions. 

He should have ended his barren run in Imola earlier this year, but crashed out while following the safety car.

How will he do?

Russell is highly rated within the paddock and his unexpected drive for Mercedes this weekend will provide him with the tools to run at the sharp end of the grid. 

Speaking earlier this year, double world champion Fernando Alonso said of the Briton: “George Russell is the one that surprises me every weekend. He makes zero mistakes and I am really surprised about his natural speed. For the future, Russell is my pick.”

Russell will be desperate to enhance his credentials, and while it will undoubtedly take him time to get up to speed in the Mercedes, do not be surprised to see him challenging Valtteri Bottas in the other car.

What about his future?

Russell is under contract with Williams for next season, and it is likely he will remain there in 2021. Hamilton’s deal expires at the end of this month but it is expected he will agree an extension. Bottas is already signed up for next year. 

However, a strong performance will increase pressure on Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who effectively manages Russell’s career, to put the Englishman in one of his cars in 2022.

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