Official: Russell to stand in for Hamilton at Mercedes, Aitken handed debut with Williams

2020 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

George Russell will swap his Williams for a Mercedes at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix as he stands in for Lewis Hamilton.

The Williams driver and Mercedes junior will substitute for the world champion, who is unable to race this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19.

Russell’s place at Williams will be taken by the team’s reserve driver Jack Aitken, who will make his debut in Formula 1.

Russell thanked his team for giving him the chance to drive for the world champions. “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,” he said.

“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. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and can’t wait to get out on track this week.”

Aitken, who driven Williams’ car earlier this year in practice, said he was “absolutely over the moon” to have landed the opportunity to make his F1 debut and “extremely happy for George to have his chance too.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“I really mean it when I say I’ve felt very much at home here since I joined Williams earlier this year, so to get my chance to help the team try to achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least.

“I’ll be doing all I can to prepare in the coming days, but truthfully, I feel like I have been ready since Melbourne. I also want to wish Lewis well in his recovery, and good luck to George getting the chance to drive the Mercedes this weekend.”

Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff thanked Williams “for their collaboration and open-mindedness” in releasing Russell to drive for them this weekend.

“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, who will be a demanding reference for him.”

Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne had been expected to play a role in replacing Hamilton this weekend. Russell will be the first Mercedes junior driver to race for the team since their return to F1 10 years ago.

“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,” said Wolff. “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.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

108 comments on “Official: Russell to stand in for Hamilton at Mercedes, Aitken handed debut with Williams”

    1. I suppose it makes sense for Mercedes to try out their 2021 lineup a couple of races early.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        2nd December 2020, 7:59

        Doesn’t Bottas have a contract for 2021?

        Oh and does Russell need to beat, Latiffi or Bottas to keep his 100% record for beating his team mate in qualy going?

        1. What @red-andy means is having a Bottas – Russel line up for next year @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk. Bottas does have a contract. But Hamilton did not sign anything yet.

          Yeah, to keep the 100% record for beating his teammate Russel would need to outqualify Bottas.

          1. I think he might be capable of that, russel seems fast in qualifying but mistake prone.

  1. Wonderful news, this will be interesting!

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      2nd December 2020, 13:34

      Could backfire – never a good thing to get in a car for a single race. I guess Russell has to take his chances but this is make or break. If he doesn’t impress, he’ll have a hard time getting that seat in the future and by extension a seat in another top team.

  2. wow….. gutted for Vandoorne, but super happy for George, what a fairy tail it would be if his first points in F1 come from a win !! Fingers crossed, hoping he keeps cool under pressure !

    1. What is the point of being a reserve driver?

      1. @f1frog I was wondering the same, but there maybe a need for a driver after the weekend starts (like Hülkenberg in Germany) and getting a driver to move teams mid-weekend would be almost impossible, if it is even allowed.

        I guess as this is pre-weekend there is more scope for change.

      2. PR duties and team overalls modelling

      3. My understanding is that Stoffel attends to simulator duties during the race weekend as well, helping to try out perspective changes to give the team in idea what to pursue during free practice. I don’t know if the reserve driver is also commonly the simulator driver, or if this is a special case, though.

        I can certainly understand going with George from Mercedes’ perspective, as he seems the more likely future prospect, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how he handles himself this weekend. But it is hard not to feel this as a slap in the face for Stoffel, and to feel bad for him as well.

  3. Fantastic news. Buckle up Valtteri.

    1. Russell will not be allowed to overtake Bottas, even if he could. Bottas is in a fight for second in the WDC and Mercedes will try to maximize his chances.

  4. Best news for d week!! Although im not expecting miracles. But imagine if he is close to Bottas. Let alone beats him in either qualy and or the race.

  5. How exciting!

    If he can out qualify Bottas and score a podium that’ll be a decent weekend for Russell. This is a golden opportunity to prove he’s Mr Saturday against one of the big boys!

    1. Decent 🤣🤣 that would be fantastic.

    2. Could you imagine!! Either way I’d expect a Bottas win

    3. Lol. Don’t be daft. Bottas is hardly a bad qualifier so he will be in front. Do you see Russell overtaking him during the race? I doubt it. A podium finish for Russell would be a mega achievement.

    4. Honestly, depending on how much faster the Mercedes will be, I think that qualifying on the top 2 rows and making the podium would be a good result. Bottas has been quite close to Hamilton with maximizing single lap top speeds, it will take Russel quite a bit to be on that from the go. The biggest thing where Bottas underperforms is race pace. But then we can hardly expect Russel to be at the level of Hamilton with the experience of a decade in F1 already, so I don’t expect him to beat Bottas.

      If he does, that will make it impressive. If he “just” gets the car in the top 4 and finishes on the podium, that would be a solid job.

      1. @bascb

        Given that this layout is biased towards low-drag and high- powered engine setups, I expect a Mercedes cakewalk just like at Monza, where the team entirely gave an easy win to anyone. I expect Bottas to be the clear favorite for pole position. Russell should just focus on getting into the top 4 at least, as he has not scored a point yet, and considering all he has been through, I think a point would boost his confidence. But, we have seen how cars even though they are fast, but they do not suit your driving style, can impact drivers like what Vettel, Gasly and Albon have gone through in the past.

        I can’t wait for the weekend. Can it be Friday already?

    5. Even Hamilton (and he knows the car much better, wouldn’t you agree?) can’t outqualify Bottas every time (2 out of 3 at best). Also, it’s (probably) just one race, anything could happen. This is an opportunity, but remember how Hülkenberg didn’t even start one of the races. He’ll need to do very well, but he’ll also need a lot of luck. Of course, he could perform badly and actually do some damage to his career. We all know he’s got pace, he’s already driven Mercedes cars before and did solid lap times compared to Lewis and Valtteri.

  6. Time to sink or swim

    If George is truly a talented driver, he should be on the pace straight away. Bottas is a decent driver but nothing special.

    1. @kingshark I’m not sure that’s necessarily fair. It takes drivers a few races before they can really start performing. Leclerc was quick in the Ferrari when he joined, but even with a full pre-season, he was outqualified by Vettel in 6 of the first 7 races in 2019. When Verstappen made the step-up to Red Bull, Ricciardo generally had him beat on pace, before Max started turning it around towards the back end of the season. Expecting Russell to immediately beat someone who has been in the team for 4 years and driven this car in 15 weekends over the past 5 months would be unrealistic. I don’t rate Bottas that highly, but he certainly isn’t a dud in qualifying. Russell outqualifying him first time around would already place him alongside Hamilton on pure pace, which just isn’t realistic. I expect it to be considerably closer in the race, for as long as Russell doesn’t have one of his signature terrible starts.

      1. I don’t expect George to outperform Bottas, but it also wouldn’t surprise me! That’s more a reflection of how good I think Russell is.

      2. I am with @mashiat here @kingshark.

        Bottas has been close enough to Hamilton in qualifying that we cannot expect Russel to be able to beat him right away. Getting close enough to be in the top 4 would be the target IMO (also depending a bit on how far ahead the Mercs are on the Bahrain outer circuit layout). Beating Verstappen / Perez (or Stroll) – depending on who is closest on pace would be a feat already.

        In the race Bottas has his issues with consistency and keeping tyres alive compared to the absolute best (Hamilton, to an extent others). But again, can we expect Russel to be on the level Lewis has achieved only in the last 2 seasons with that? In a car he has never driven in a race?
        Bottas had both good and bad starts, Russel will feel a lot of pressure to do well, but if he manages to get it in p2 (or p4), he might suffer as badly as we saw both Bottas and Verstappen struggle to get away from that no. 2 spot last weekend.

        Overall, I think Max Verstappen (i do hope he tests negatively, although it would be fun to see both him and Albon replaced. But I guess we’d have heard by now, if they cought it from Hamilton on the podium) will be really optimistic about his chances this weekend. He knows beating Bottas, or a Russel in a car he is not that familiar with, will be far easier than having to beat Hamilton on top of his game.

        1. Hmm… interesting. What if Max and/or Alex test positive?
          I would expect Red Bull to call up Gasly and/or Hulk as replacements. But who would Alpha Tauri get? Maybe Buemi?

          On the other hand, @bascb , I suppose we should have heard by now, as you are saying.

      3. @mashiat I think that’s a realistic expectation for Russell, I can’t see him out qualifying Bottas. If he can finish 10s in the race that would be a strong result. People have short memories and your point on Verstappen and Leclerc is well made. Russell has had no running in the W11, even if he has tested previous seasons cars before.

      4. @mashiat
        Leclerc was straightaway on Vettel’s pace since Australia. He was outqualified by Vettel, who let’s not forget is a one lap ace, by 2 tenths and he caught him in the final stages of the race and wasn’t able to attack due to team orders. In the second race he got pole position and was comfortably leading the race till his engine failed. Even in the races that followed the gap wasn’t that big to Vettel in qualy and surely he made some mistakes but once he changed his approach in terms of car set up, there was no question who was the lead driver.

        Same for Max, he was straightaway on the pace, however some rookie mistakes prevented him from collecting better results. Why the expectations are high for Russel, it’s simple. He is regarded as same material as Verstappen & Leclerc and he has no choice but to deliver just like them.

        TBH, if he will be around 3/4 tenths off Bottas pace, that would be just OK. Let’s not forget that Bottas has a clear understanding of how the W11 works which is a bit different than the other cars especially with the DAS and how they prepare the tyres in qualy. However, if Mercedes engineers can guide Russel into how to set up the car and how to get it work quickly, he surely can get something out of the bag.

        1. @tifoso1989 Leclerc had hundreds of lap under him during pre-season testing, while Russell is going in with basically no practice whatsoever. As for the point on Verstappen, he was about 0.5% off Ricciardo in his first-ever qualifying session. And given that Verstappen has since proved that he is superior to Ricciardo on pure pace, it would be safe to say that he wasn’t immediately on the pace in the Red Bull. It’s a different story in the race, where other factors come into it.

    2. There’s no if. Russell is very good.

    3. Sink or swim? What hyperbole @kingshark

  7. I think people need to temper their expectations slightly. If Russell can qualify within 0.5s of Bottas and finish within 10s in the race, that’s an incredible achievement. As much as I don’t rate Bottas, he isn’t a total dud, and 4 years of experience with Mercedes and thousands of kilometres with this car should count for something. Even the likes of Verstappen and Leclerc took some time to really start being quicker than their teammates when they stepped up, I don’t expect it to be any different for Russell.

    1. this..

      It is a great opportunity for him. Don’t ruin it for him by expecting miracles I’d say…

    2. @mashiat
      With all due respect, I totally disagree.

      If Russell is 5 tenths slower than Bottas in qualifying, I will consider that a very mediocre performance, especially around a circuit layout which barely has any corners.

      I except Russell to be right up there with Bottas this weekend. Then again, I always have high expectations for promising young drivers.

      1. @kingshark

        But are you not considering exactly what @mashiat mentions? Bottas has 4 years of experience in this team. Russell is only in his 2nd year and has been against a rather underwhelming kubica and Latifi who gets no end of criticism. Instantly getting used to a totally new car will not be easy, and there isn’t any proved evidence of how good russell really is against the better drivers.

      2. Mate, Bottas has been with the team for 4 years, and the W11 is designed towards Hamilton and Bottas’ driving styles. The latter has been in a civil war against arguably the best driver of all time, and has maintained qualifying within 0.1s of him throughout the last 2 years. I get it that Russell has had a similar path to Leclerc in winning the categories below F1, but asking him to outqualify and outrace Bottas considering the opponent #77 faced for the last 4 years, is a big ask, and almost too much for Russell. Unlesss Russell is on Hamilton or even Verstappen’s level of talent, it is too much to expect for him. We’re not even factoring that he will jump from Williams to Mercedes, and the speed difference could impact his feeling in the car just like what occurred to Perez this season with the RP20.

        However, if Russell beats Bottas on outright pace this weekend or even in the finale in Abu Dhabi, that will really raise questions over Bottas’ performance. I expect both to be fully motivated and to be at their best this weekend. It is going to be exciting, a new track and 3 new drivers transferring to new teams.

      3. @kingshark
        The W11 is a bit different to the other cars. 0.5s gap to Bottas can be misleading, if he can’t get the tyres to work properly using the DAS, the gap will be even bigger. I get your point about how poor Bottas is, however there are some procedures Russel must go through before unlocking the W11 potential. One race isn’t enough for Russel to beat Bottas in my opinion.

        As much as I want Hamilton a speedy recovery from that virus, as much I would like to see Russel race in Abu Dhabi with Mercedes. There we can fairly judge how talented he is. However, that would only be possible if Hamilton recovers quickly and Mercedes decide just to give him a paid leave for what he has done for them over the years, but I know that is not realistic once he is ready they will call him in.

    3. One one hand, sure, I don’t he’ll qualify ahead of Bottas (and honestly, he really shouldn’t), but I’ve no doubt George can match him on race pace.

      Much like Verstappen when he debuted for Red Bull with a week’s notice, I’ve no doubt George can get in that car and be on good pace immediately. Yeah, you won’t be able to match qualifying pace due to not being used to setting up that car to your exact specifications (iirc Max was about .4s off of Ricky’s pace in the early part of 2016 and then slowely closed that gap further over time), but managed race pace is definitely something George should be able to do.

      Much like Max, and Leclerc for that matter on his Ferrari debut, George is a driver I’ve no doubt can be on pace with a more experienced driver right from the start.

  8. Everything to gain for Russell, everything to lose for bottas – what a great prospect. If Russell gets on the podium, he will have succeeded. Anything less than a win for bottas will be a failure, so I hope he has a clean weekend. If bottas gets outqualified or worse, outraced, I think he’s struggling to keep his seat.

    1. Can you imagine the pressure to perform Russel will feel on himself? I do hope he does well, but for all we know he gets beaten in qualifying by Albon and Perez or Stroll, has a bad start from 5th, messes up his tyres in the second stind and is happy to get home in 6th behind Sainz @frood19.

      Sure, it CAN be a fairytale weekend with Russel winning from a top 3 qualifying position in a tight fight with Verstappen and Bottas for all podium positions. But there is huge pressure. And a car he is not that familiar with.

  9. Wonderful opportunity & thoroughly deserved, given the circumstances.
    Get well soon Lewis.

  10. With Verstappen on the grid and with Bottas struggling most of the times against Verstappen it will be difficult for Russel to win. It will be a great achievement if he trails Bottas, and absolute win if he finishes in front of him.

    In any case, he has to be careful and not crash against others, especially Bottas. He just need to finish in podium and that’s it.

  11. I have to say the prospect of Bottas v Russell in the two Mercs is so much more enticing than another weekend of ‘get in there Lewis’.

    Will be fascinating viewing no matter what happens.

  12. It’s a shame the track layout won’t be the same as last weekend as we can use some of Hamilton’s timings as a reference.

  13. This will be a huge failure. Russell proved that he can’t grab the chances as they come, just like Hulkenberg. I expect he finishes no higher than fifth in the race, behind Verstappen, Bottas, Albon, and Perez. F2 achievements, when he beat easily Norris, Albon and Latify both on points and on track, mean nothing in F1.

    I also think that Mercedes made an error when they didn’t sign him after his first year in F1. Red Bull signed Verstappen when he wasn’t even of legal age. Even Ferrari signed Leclerc after just 1 year that the Monegasque spent in F1. Russell would be more mature by this time and, perhaps, a better racers. If they are so afraid of breaking the driver, then they shouldn’t hire him at all.

    To sum up, 5th at best, but I actually think Russell will be around 10th place, heroically fighting for points on the championship winning car.

    1. I’d say this scenario is more likely than a podium for him. I’d say being about 5-6 tenths off Bottas in Q is not bad. But that could mean 5-6-7th place on the starting grid. The Merc isn’t all that great in traffic so he might be stuck in some DRS train 80% of the race. But then: is that really a failure? Jumping from possibly the worst car to the best is the biggest performance gap you can have with the current cars. And then there is DAS, can he get the most out of it on his first weekend? I doubt it. But I wouldn’t blame him either. I’d be happy for him to score his first points.

      1. Yeah, I really hope nobody lets the hopes and expectations get to their heads and starts calling Russel a dud if he does not get it on pole and doesn’t beat the guy in the other Mercedes with 4 years of experience next to Hamilton in the race.

        My expectation is that if Russel does well he will be on the second row – unless Mercedes have a huge pace advantage – and can finish in the top 6 in the race, a podium would be superb IMO in a car he’s not that familiar with. Making the tyres last over the distance will take some getting used to.

        1. Ah yes, there are track characteristics. They might be helpful for him to be more to the front in Q. Maybe we’ll see a lot of DRS passing, maybe the DRS is too short and we’ll get DRS trains. Either way, this layout will be more to his liking than substituting Hamilton on Monaco for example :-)

    2. Plus Latifi will be looking to score a point for Williams!

    3. Wait, Hulkenberg did get a pole position…

    4. Russell is already signed by Mercedes, what are you talking about? His manager is even Toto. This is not the same as Verstappen who had a clear choice with which team to sign for.

  14. Wonderful news! Mercedes giving us fans a TREAT at the front of the grid!

    Its a new track for both George and Valtteri and the lap is expected to be just 50-55 seconds. So, as long as George is within 1-2 tenths of Bottas, he has been the better driver of the weekend in my opinion.

  15. “Anyone can win in that car”, they said.

    21 year-old GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton stepped into the McLaren-Mercedes in September 2006. After a couple of familiarisation runs, Hamilton was given a set of new tyres, and immediately matched McLaren test driver Pedro De la Rosa’s times. “Just looking at the data for a couple of seconds,” De la Rosa recalls, “I realised we had a massive problem – me and all the other drivers on the grid.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/extra/c1nx5lutpg/The-real-Lewis-Hamilton-story)

    George has the opportunity now, maybe two full races, but even one should be enough – a chick that will grow into a cock can be seen the day it hatches. Wishing him all the best!

    1. Lets hope he doesn’t cock it up then eh.

      I like the analogy though :)

    2. Spot on Never Electric, in the sense that one always applauds those who agree with us!

      Thought of Lewis’s debut performances myself and whilst George hasn’t driven the Mercedes as much as Lewis did the McLaren, he did do a test session recently and if I recall correctly he was predictably fast if not completely ‘wow’, like Danny Ric in Seb’s 2010 Red Bull. 2 seasons driving the Williams is really good preparation, the engine and the tyres are the same, it’s just getting used to the slightly different adhesion limit, pretty easy when you consider that different tyres on the same car make a larger difference.

      Classy response also.. this is a man who trusts it’s going to come to him and not to get carried away.

    3. I do wonder how much of Lewis’s feedback helps the team setup the car every weekend. We hear a lot of rhetoric about “anyone could win in that car” but I have no doubt that Lewis and his engineer play a massive part in tweaking the car into it’s race winning setup each weekend.

      I will be interested to see how this plays out, although given it is the same venue (albeit a different layout) the tweaking needed might not be as pronounced as if it was a new country and track.

      It would not surprise me if RedBull and the rest of the pack is a lot closer this weekend.

  16. People are delusional, or just ignorant about driving a race car, if they think George will be able to beat Valteri on pace his first time in the car.
    Now, having said that I will contradict myself and recall the time I saw Jody Scheckter, at Watkins Glen, jump in a Lola T-330 for the first time, have crashed his Trojan T-101, and smoke the field in qualifying by over a second, a grid that included Brian Redman, Mark Donohue, Peter Gethin, David Hobbs, Tony A-Z, etc.

  17. He should as a minimum beat Bottas. But this is a three day event. So many opportunities to bin it.
    Maybe he’ll shine, who knows.
    And of course Toto gets his cut as agent.

  18. Massive sliding doors moment coming up for George, will he do a Hulk or Kovalainen. No little pressure on Bottas either but from the teams perspective its a no lose gamble.

    If George gets swamped at the beginning and Bottas has one of his anonymous days it might do for Lewis’ critics what Grosjeans crash did for the halo. Sorry, i’m talking crazy, course it wont.

    1. Remember that Hulk got a pole position in his rookie season!
      Maybe a better analogy would be… will he do a Vandoorne, or a Ricciardo?

  19. I expected Vandoorne or Hulkenberg as they seemed more realistic options at this short notice, but happy for Russell. Aitken will have quite a task doing both F2 and F1 on the same weekend.

    1. I am sure Williams will expect him to focus solely on F1 this weekend.
      I don’t really follow F2, but I see he is 14th in the standings. Even if Williams allowed it, which would be ridiculous, imagine that something happening in the F2 sessions could jeopardize his involvement in the F1 sessions. Why would they (and he) take that risk?

  20. Hulkenberg had the phone off?

    In any case I look forward to this. If George can get close to Bottas, now that would say something about Mercedes #2 choice.

    There is also a fairly good chance he can score a podium or better. Win will go to Verstappen?

  21. I’m tipping Aitken to get a point, Russell and Bottas to take each other out with trying too hard, and Max to win.

    1. I am still waiting for the promise of what Renault supposedly unlocked in the car for high-speed circuits.
      But given what happened to Mercedes at Monza, it would be great to see some new faces on the podium.

      1. Yes. I wouldnt bet on RBR this weekend. This is a moment for Renault, RP and McLaren to be on it. I expect Bottas to check out in the lead and RBR needing all their effort to defend instead of attack.

    2. @Rodber
      +1
      Aitken to get a point, Russell no points

  22. Hoping he doesn’t get cursed.

  23. Very happy for George, and although I wish Lewis well I wouldn’t mind if he sat out Abh Dhabi as well to give the youngster a couple bites at the cherry.

    A couple of thoughts on his prospects this weekend;

    – Max is going to be absolutely gunning for the win here unless Red Bull pull a Monza, but recent races suggest that was a one off.

    – Bottas is coming off the back of the two terrible weekends, although the Bahrain race wasn’t all his fault (his start could be partly attributed to being on the dirty side). I’d say there’s more pressure on him than George this weekend but I’d still expect him to grab pole and win.

    – Will Perez have a new power unit this weekend? If I was Racing Point I’d go for it with two weekends to go… just take the penalty and turn it up. He could be one to watch.

    – Realistically I’d hope George beats everyone else and finishes in the top four. Verstappen was 4 tenths off Danny Ric at his first race at Barcelona, but went to on win the race due to some favourable strategy calls. If George could be within 1-2 tenths on this outer circuit in Bahrain I’d suggest he’s done well.

    It’ll be interesting to see how he does. I’m probably more interested in this weekend than I have been all season to be honest. I felt the same when Max debuted at Red Bull too.

    1. Russell already knows the car, so won’t be as disadvantaged as others stepping into a new car

  24. Although Bottas is a fine driver I always get the impression that there is very little excitement about his driving or his public image. A quiet guy, a dependable wingman. Not necessarily who the hottest car manufacturer in F1 want as their lead driver though. Hence all those one year contracts.

    1. People forget some facts:
      1) Verstappen won his first race with Redbull (just promoted). he never won a race until it passed 1 year.
      2) Alonso won his first race with Ferrari, he never won a world championship with Ferrari.
      3) Magnussen got a 2 in his first race with McLaren (he never got more podiums) and he was kicked from McLaren at the end of year.

      They are lot of examples of super resultd on their first race with a team. Hardly means anything as is just 1 race. You can take some conclussions if they race 5 races at least. Russell will race 2 races with Mercedes and is pretty difficult to jump into any conclussions, even if he beats Bottas in points acumulated in the 2 races.

      Albon got more points than Verstappen in their first 6 races they shared between them. Albon is at years performance from Verstappen right now.

      So good opportunity, but doesnt mean anything relevant. But is interesting to see other driver get the Mercedes appart from Hamilton and Bottas, like Racing point was driven by Hulkenberg. But no conclussions can be taken from it, but from the spectators point of view is interesting.

      1. Raikkonen won his first race with Ferrari and championship as well, remember 2007?

  25. Great news although feel a bit sorry for Stoffel who is such a great talent as well. For George, it’s a great opportunity to impress the team with his craft and work ethic and I feel he’ll be up to it.

    Also, I see a lot of comments down-washing Bottas but not to forget, he generally runs close to Lewis on Saturdays and is no slouch over a lap.

    Sooner or later, George will be in that Mercedes seat (likely to be 2022) and this is a great opportunity for him to prove it.

    Can he do a Verstappen from Spain 2016? Time will tell.

  26. I hope Russell has a great weekend and gets a chance to show his talent. Beating Bottas is not the goal for him this weekend, it’s all about showing Mercedes he’s a diligent team player with a good turn of speed and the ability to adapt. How he works with the team is almost as important as his actual performance this weekend. He only needs to not get embarrassed compared to Bottas for it to be considered a reasonable result this weekend. Expectations might be higher next race if he’s still in the car.

    1. I think this is a good summary of what George needs to achieve. I think it is great George and Jack have been given these opportunities.

  27. A kick in the nuggets for Vandoorne.

    1. Yes, in the hyerachy of Mercedes it is. But Vandorne isnt a future driver and Russell is. Rusell has eaten the wordt on the car for 2 years and next year will be the 3. Its a reward for his fidelity to the team, i think is correct from that point of view, and also because he is f1 trained which Vandoorne isnt.

  28. Bottas is mentally broken by Hamilton, thats why everybody wants to see a different partner than Bottas in the second Mercedes. But Russel doesnt habe the level to beat a top Hamilton. If Hamilton declines may be he will have a vhance. But Russell or other driver brings new energy and illussion, which is what Bottas lost long time ago.

  29. WOW an early Chistmas present. Bottas must be very worried

  30. Watching onboards of Russell, you seldom see him missing an apex or struggling to hold onto the car at speed. Apart from the low speed gaff at Imola, I’d argue he hasn’t put a foot wrong since moving to F1. Given that he won the F2 championship against rivals including Norris and Albon, both who have had the chance to drive for podium contending teams, it does feel like Toto Wolff sold him down river leaving him to rot in Williams.
    “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.”
    Not much of a Junior programme if that’s how you treat the successful ones.

    Bottas has not been a contender for the WDC in any year he has raced for the Brackley team, with even Toto calling him a wingman for Hamilton. What a wasted opportunity these last two years have been. Mercedes need to put someone young and exciting in the second car. Hamilton needs the challenge. The team needs a driver to fill his seat when Lewis walks. The sport needs it to keep fans engaged.

    1. I can think of a few other instances. We can’t really say he hasn’t put a foot wrong. In germany last year, he messed up at the safety car restart and Kubica did the better job in the end.

      And this year, the other big mistake was locking up badly in russia and messing up his strategy. Then Latifi beat him comfortably that race by over 30 seconds.

      I also don’t think his race pace is that good compared to qualifying, in a similar pattern to Bottas. But the issue is, we really don’t know how good russell is given who he’s against. And even in both british GPs this time, Latifi finished very close to him. With one quite possibly being team orders keeping him behind as he was frequently well under half a second behind in the last few laps.

      Sorry, but I just don’t think Russell is all that impressive from what I’ve seen. I think he would be better proving himself in a midfield team. Not too much should be judged from a single race weekend he has at Mercedes weather it is good or bad, as it has no proof of his consistency.

      1. And the Round Up today also mentions Russel’s frustration about his starts. It also has to be said that Kubica would regularly out launch him last year. So i still think Russell has a long way to go to be considered a top driver.

        Mercedes don’t NEED to put someone young and exciting in the car, This is a fan’s point of view. Last year and this year, Bottas is on target to finish 2nd in the standings (even though it is tight – partly related to his misfortune). But that is all Mercedes can hope for results wise. As long at they have a top driver, Bottas is ideal for a number 2.

    2. Yeh you obviously missed some engagement when he restarted terribly in the Tuscan GP with 11 runners and when he went wide and lost places whilst in the points. Most of his starts are terrible and im afraid if he cant get them right hes doomed, however much he is held aloft as the great white hope before even finishing above 12th

  31. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    2nd December 2020, 10:24

    Wow, hats off to Toto and Mercedes, that’s a bold decision to take. To whom it may concern, I hope George thrashes you!

  32. I struggle to believe the amount of posts that seem to think this one race will confirm the future and some basically implying it could end Bottas’s career. Mercedes and no other team are dumb enough to base one performance and decide everything based on that just because he’s against another driver that is doing a single race! Even if they do promote russell in the future, this unlikely will have been the main reason as there just isn’t enough time in 3 days to confirm much. I think the way some of the media’s titles are written that confuse things sometimes.

    Mercedes said last year that they would be deciding on Bottas’s contract extension over the next couple of races (Germany and Hungary). I found it hilarious the number of people that implied they actually thought that they would base it on these two races alone. I thought this given many thought Bottas binning it in Germany would have ended that chance. The team meant that over those two races was the time they were making the decision and will have based it over the season.

    Same with this race, the rest of the season is just as important. And one single race doesn’t really prove much for russell in the long term, and nor unfortunately does being at Williams in a poor car against a poor team mate. Next season is when hopefully when Russell has more to prove.

  33. Hoped for this, saw it coming and I’m glad they’re going for 1-2 result in the following race! And, this is opportunity to see is it the car or Lewis ;-)

    1. unfortunately this one race can only semi prove that it is the car if Russel does exceptionally well, lets say a podium finish (That is if you don’t believe Russel is capable), If he has a not so good result it can be argued that he was not expected to do exceptionally well at such short notice and therefore it might still be the car.
      Personally I think Lewis is one of the greatest drivers of all time, but I also think that the car has amplified his results and probably made him look even better.
      Bottas is the evidence that the car is a huge advantage, but the better car does not prove that Lewis isn’t great.
      Sorry but I simply do not rate Bottas, he is an excellent wing man, but that’s all, there are at least 5 better than him.
      Keep in mind also that Lewis is not under contract for 21. IF Merc see a far cheaper winning formula this weekend, it could work out badly for Lewis. Unlikely, but possible,

  34. With Jack Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi both making their debuts at Sakhir, when was the last time we had more than one debutant on the grid, other than for a season opener?

    I think it’s Italy 2001, where Alex Young made his debut for Minardi and Tomas Enge for Prost, but it’s possible I’ve missed one since.

  35. Wow – fair play Mercedes! I didn’t expect them to go with Russell as it’s going to potentially going to put them in a bit of an awkward situation but I’m very happy to see they’ve done it.

  36. I think Hamilton will be unhappy hearing this. If Russel does outqualify and outpace Bottas, it’ll be a huge bargaining tool for Mercedes when negotiating Hamilton’s contract… Toto makes a good move indeed.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      2nd December 2020, 14:47

      Well, it could go the other way too. I doubt Toto made the move to bargain with Hamilton. I think it’s more about validating their junior driver programme and, perhaps, to assess Bottas’ performance. Hamilton is firing on all pistons – you can’t ask anything more of him.

      1. Fair comment, Lewis is right in the zone at the moment, but I am not sure that is the end of the discussion. Basically Merc have a car that can/would win with any one of 5 or 6 of the current drivers on board (Fact is that if Lewis wasn’t there, Bottas would be winning, so the car can do it even with and average driver by F1 standards), so for Merc a cheaper winning solution than Lewis would not be a bad outcome.

  37. Big news. Happy for Russell.
    I think he will do just fine. He will be somewhere in the top 5. Hoping for a top 3. This could be a make or break though. We finally get to have a chance to see what the car can do without Hamilton. If really anyone could win in that car.
    But for Russell if he goes out there, beats Bottas, Not just on Saturday, he will be a lock in as a 2022 Driver at Mercedes.
    If he does really bad, Mercedes might reevaluate.
    This weekend could derail a drives F1 future or cement their future in F1.
    On the other hand. Russell can give the Williams engineers some comparisons. Of course no data or such but he can tell them the difference in some behaviors of the cars and give them an idea on what could improve the Williams more.
    I have to say that this will be the first time ever since Mercedes came back as a constructer that I will actually hope for a good weekend for one of the Mercedes cars.

  38. Jose Lopes da Silva
    2nd December 2020, 11:28

    Seems Vandoorne is definitely past, while Aitken is still future. Good for Aitken.
    For Russell, it’s just common sense.

  39. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    2nd December 2020, 13:37

    Let’s wait and see – I’m a bit worried about Russell. He deserves a real chance, not a single race. Hulk has nothing to lose, Stoffel has nothing to lose, Russell has everything to lose. He’s a very bright kid, he knows it.

  40. Go go George, I’d like to see a podium :) (at least)
    2nd or 3rd place would be ok and realistic for him, because Bottas is a quite good qualifier and knows the car much better, and Verstappen will likely be very motivated because of the higher probability of scoring a win or a 2nd place. Russell only battled with the backmarkers yet, sometimes he not even had an opponent to battle with, esecially when Williams was even more far off at last season. Although if he gets a bit lucky, or the opponents unlucky, he could even win.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      2nd December 2020, 14:38

      People may not realize this but George is likely to score his very first points in F1 this weekend. It’s a momentous occasion for him.

      1. Russell standing on the podium at this weekend is not a bad story for F1. Actually probably it’s the story what they need. I’m a fan of him, so obviously I would like to see something more than a midfield run due to some bad luck.
        Bookies give much worse odds for Perez than Russell (25/1 to Perez win, and 11/4 for Russel win), and erm, they live of those odds.

        Russell beating Bottas by a significant margin, or Aitken beating Latifi comfortably would be bad for the overall image. Although none of these will likely happen, as it’s just a first opportunity for Russell and Aitken.

  41. Here’s hoping George can find better luck with his starts in a different car and make it an interesting race up front.

  42. Does this mean Nico Hulkenberg will be filling in at Williams?

  43. From the slowest car in the grid to the fastest for one race! It will be tough for him to go back after this weekend.

    I hope russell and valteri are allowed to race although it might be tough for Russell to get fully up to speed for a single race. How does this DAS thing work?? Good thing we have a full weekend schedule with 3 practice sesssions.

  44. Mercedes must be thinking…

    Here is a guy 15 years younger, 49 million cheaper, not woke, does a decent job of beating Bottas, creates a massive buzz in the media. Maybe it is time to retire the old Champion.

    George is the perfect Masa to Hamilton.

    Granted in F1 you are only as good as your last race, and last race he was spectacular.

    Now what happens if he is spectacular again next race? There is very low chance of Mercedes messing up again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.