Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes, Sochi, 2020

Vandoorne says he has “a chance” to replace Hamilton as Russell is linked to seat

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne says he has “a chance” to replace Lewis Hamilton in the team’s line-up for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The world champion will not take part in the race after his team confirmed he has tested positive for Covid-19.

Vandoorne is one of Mercedes’ two reserve drivers. The other, Esteban Gutierrez, does not currently have a Formula 1 superlicence.

However the team is believed to be weighing up the possibility of using Hamilton’s absence as an opportunity to give junior driver George Russell an opportunity to race the W11. That would require reaching an agreement with his Williams team, which uses Mercedes power units.

Speaking to media following today’s Formula E test in Valencia, Vandoorne said “I don’t know what is going to happen [but] I know there is a chance for me to drive.

“But let’s wait and see. I’m travelling tomorrow and I’ll find out.”

George Russell, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Russell could get a promotion to Mercedes this weekend
Vandoorne confirmed he had spoken to Mercedes about Hamilton’s absence from this weekend’s F1 race but indicated no decision has been taken on who will replace him.

“I got a first message this morning around seven,” he said. “The team told me that Lewis tested positive and they were going to announce an hour later. But afterwards it’s just been kind of waiting.

“To be honest I’ve not been able to think about it that much because I’ve been focusing on my Formula E test here. That’s been the priority of the day. I know I’m travelling out anyway to Bahrain tomorrow so let’s wait and see.”

Vandoorne raced in Formula 1 for two seasons with McLaren in 2017 and 2018.

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30 comments on “Vandoorne says he has “a chance” to replace Hamilton as Russell is linked to seat”

  1. Ahhhhhhhhh come on Mercedes…. be bold enough to put Russell. I said Vandoorne should substitute because he is Mercedes’ reserve driver, and if Mercedes follow the hierarchy of members, then he should be the one to take Hamilton’s place given the roles. However, I would not mind if Russell gets a chance to drive the W11 this weekend. If this occurs, then this could be a highly pressurized weekend for Bottas and Russell.

    1. Would be interesting, and while I think Mercedes should go for Vandoorne as they don’t have much to gain and he is the logical choice given his role (yeah I know F1 and logics…). Williams still fighting for points with one of their best opportunity with Ferrari engine cars likely to struggle at the high speed configuration.

      I have also been unimpressed by Russell handling under pressure. It’s easy to focus on his highs during qualifying but he has made several (costly) mistakes especially when in a realistic shot for points, luckily for him, mainly away from cameras but not sure Mercedes has missed those.

      It gets also double trouble to do a refit for Georges at Mercedes and whatever driver at Williams with both likely to perform a bit sub-optimal in new cars. Not really optimizing global result. Vandoorne and Hulkenberg are probably with a better shot (might be proven wrong).

      1. @jeanrien Agreed and would only add imho if it is between Vandoorne and Hulk then they might as well go with their reserve driver.

    2. @krichelle as noted in the article, it would depend on whether they can also come to an agreement with Williams for them to temporarily lend Russell to them.

      After all, Williams has every right to look after its own interests first and, given Russell did perform fairly well in the Bahrain GP, it’s been commented that the team think there is a chance Russell could score points for them on the modified layout that is being used.

  2. Russel has earned a shot in the top teams car, though I’m unsure if Williams would let him go since they are still fighting for a higher championship position. Maybe merc could give them vandoorne for the weekend as a sweetener.

    1. If Williams turn down Russell’s chance to the best car on the grid in order to drive the worst one, I can’t see him being particularly happy or motivated to put in a mega performance for Williams… I think considering Mercedes supply engines to Williams and also that Russell is in the Merc Young Driver Programme, they will be able to have him if they want. There might even be a clause in his Williams contract somewhere….

      1. @petebaldwin I guess that might depend on how much of a chance GR thinks he has, but either way if that were to demotivate him such that he sandbags the weekend at Williams out of being in a snit, then he doesn’t belong in F1, imho. I’d like to think GR understands Merc does have a reserve driver, and as well I’d like to think that if Merc is interested in poaching GR they will approach whoever they need to at Williams first before getting GR’s hopes up and then potentially dashing them as you suggest.

  3. I hope he gets the chance – he is their reserve driver after all, and on top of that I’d say he’s just as good or better than Russell.

    1. Exactly, Vandoorne would destroy Latifi as easily as Russel.

  4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    1st December 2020, 15:01

    Doesn’t Russell have an obligation towards Williams? If he races for Mercedes, someone will have to replace him at Williams, won’t that be the case?

    1. @freelittlebirds Maybe Vandoorne takes Russel’s seat at Williams then?

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        1st December 2020, 20:00

        @f1osaurus big jump between the Mercedes and the Williams ;-)

  5. This article really makes me wonder what a 3rd driver’s contract has in it about replacing a team’s 1st and 2nd driver in a race weekend. You would think the role of a 3rd driver is to stand inplace of 1st and 2nd driver when they are unnavailable, but alas, they only ‘have a chance’

    1. True, but then Perez who had a contract for an actual ride got replaced too, so yeah, contracts are only good to a point. I think too it then depends on the circumstance, and it likely helps Merc to potentially make a different choice given that they have sealed up both Championships and whoever they take on will not affect what VB needs to do to stay ahead of Max in the drivers chase which is all they have left to fight for other than pride of yet another pole and win.

      I guess if they go with Russell it will perhaps confirm the rumours about how stoked they are about him, and it would be a great opportunity for him, but at the same time I’m not sure it is a fair test to just throw him into the deep end like that. Going to be fun to see who they pick and how he does.

  6. I don’t see what Williams would have to gain by letting Russell go across to Mercedes. Williams desperately needs to score points (Mercedes doesn’t), and only has two races left in which to do so. If they let their best driver go, what are they left with – Latifi and…. who (Nissany)?

    It’s not like Russell would be able to go across to Mercedes and bag points on Williams’ behalf. If Williams let him go, as nice as that might be for him, they might as well write off any chance of ending the year on anything other than zero – with all the negative consequences that carries.

    1. The same thing that always plays a part in constructors politics: engines. A more favorable engine deal, and cash on top for whoever pays to get in that empty seat.

      The old williams team would’ve said no, but who knows what the new leadership will decide.

    2. Nissany has no super license. Jack Aitken is Williams reserve driver.

  7. I absolutely wish Hamilton all the best and hope he gets well soon, but whatever happens here will likely make for a much more interesting race weekend than watching him motor off into the distance…again.

    1. A taste of what F1 will be like post Hamilton not just for the spectators. For teams, other drivers, the media, money men, etc.

      1. Hopefully things will change a bit for 2022 and he might have a bit of a challenge then.

  8. It will be Vandoorne. No way a factory team will want to deviate from the formal protocol and hire a contractor driver instead of a full-time reserve one.

    1. Unless Mercedes want to get a better picture of the performance of their young drivers and Bottas to plan for the future. Stoffel is not the future of Merc and frankly given how he performed against old man Alonso, he won’t do the Merc justice. I’ll be surprised if Stoffel is given the nod.

      1. I’d love to see how Stoff compares to Valteri. Imagine if he beat Valteri? Wouldnt that be great? Because he was written off as garbage after getting properly trounced by Alonso.

        And if Stoff is good enough to beat Valteri….haha.

  9. Ambrogio Isgro
    1st December 2020, 17:36

    Well, imagine Vandoorne took the opportunity and win the Grand Prix. What a story!

  10. The delay can surely only mean discussions with Williams

  11. Would be so great if Russel can get to drive the car, but it may make a joke of the entire Williams team if they allowed that.

  12. Merc could take Stoffel and George, and lend Bottas back to Williams for two races?

    1. HaHa,
      Maybe they should keep Bottas in to try and secure 2nd in the WDC and draft Stroll in from the Mercedes B team, or Perez to help him secure 4th.

  13. I do wonder how “race fit” Stoffel is. After all, it isn’t as though he has several weeks to build up his muscles. If he has kept up with his race fitness regime then he shouldn’t have a problem, but if he hadn’t, then it could be painful. On the other hand George is race fit.

  14. The only way russell gets to drive the merc is that merc can make it sweet for williams. Even if there are contracts in place for situations like these all those contracts were done with the old williams management. There could be clauses and terms on those contracts which the new williams management has a very different view on.

    I think merc, toto and williams are just haggling at this point. Merc wants just a driver to drive their car, toto wants russell in the merc because he is (or is he managed by merc?) russell’s manager so he is also pushing for merc to pick russell as well. However williams is clearly wanting money in some form and it is going to take some negotiation to get merc to sign off those monies when they have vandoorne already paid and ready to go. After all how much is one race worth anyways? Maybe williams wants something else instead of vandoorne? After all there is a chance for williams to double dip here. Get money from merc and loan russell away and then sell the seat to the highest bidder. My money is on russell driving the merc and williams announcing a totally new pay driver for the race.

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