It seems that George Russell will take the seat of Lewis Hamilton during the Bahrain Grand Prix. At first glance, this may seem like a crazy decision, as he has his own seat with the Williams team, but it could be a very logical choice.
On Tuesday morning, the Mercedes team announced in a statement that Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for the corona virus. The Briton was tested negative three times last week, but still developed mild symptoms on Monday morning. The Mercedes driver took it safe and was again tested for corona. Ultimately, he underwent three new tests, all of which came back positive. Since he’s in the most popular seat in the sport, everyone started speculating almost immediately about who his possible replacement might be.
It soon became clear that there were really only four (somewhat) logical choices. Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Gutiérrez (both Mercedes reserve drivers), Nico Hülkenberg (who has jumped in three times earlier this year) and Williams driver George Russell. Since Esteban Gutiérrez would first have to renew his super license, and would have to cover 300 kilometers in a special test, the chance that he will actually step in seems very small. Hülkenberg also seems to have officially dropped out as a possible substitute, as he has just confirmed on Instagram that he is not on the plane. Vandoorne has already confirmed that he is coming to the track, but insists that this has always been the plan and that nothing has changed for him to date.
Vandoorne and Russell thus appear to be the only options left, as several media outlets, including the BBC that Mercedes would prefer Russell. To do this, however, an agreement will have to be reached with Williams, because he is of course under contract there. Should those negotiations fail, Mercedes would still call on test driver Vandoorne.
Many wonder why Mercedes would prefer a Williams driver, when they have an available reserve driver. First of all, it is important to remember that George Russell is part of Mercedes training. The British driver seems to have a bright future with the team, but has not really been able to prove himself to date, because he drives an inferior car. With the championships in for Mercedes, this race weekend could be the ultimate test of what the 22-year-old can do with good equipment.
Of course, the heading experience also comes into play. Russell has been driving in Formula 1 for two years now and, despite his worse material, has already gained a lot of experience. This while Vandoorne has been out for a while and is now in Formula E, which is a completely different class. The switch would therefore be a lot smaller for the British driver than for the Belgian test driver.
In addition, it could also be beneficial for the Williams team in the financial field. There is a very good chance that there will be a financial compensation. For example, Mercedes could provide them with a free engine or make a financial contribution. Given the financial situation at Williams himself, it is not inconceivable that the team will ‘sell’ its seat to a pay driver. Thus, a driver who normally never has a chance, but does have his super license, could still drive a race.
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