George Russell: Mercedes F1’s big chance evaluation at Sakhir GP with Lewis Hamilton absent

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As Lewis Hamilton claimed the 11th Formula 1 victory of a 2020 season winning the Bahrain GP title on Sunday, George Russell was 12th. This tied the second-best result of his two-year F1 career so far, in which he has yet to score – despite admirable efforts – a point in a Williams car that has often been the slowest in the race. wire rack.

Less than 72 hours later, Russell was officially confirmed as the man to replace the missing seven-time F1 world champion in Sakhir’s next race this weekend, in a car that has not only been hailed as the most fast this season, but the fastest in the history of the sport.

A ‘devastated’ Hamilton loss, with the dominant F1 force sidelined following a positive Covid-19 test, is Russell’s win, and offers the young Englishman, just 22, a huge chance – albeit on such short notice.

A chance to prove how fast he is after two years down the grid. A chance to score his first podium, not to mention the points. A chance to show Mercedes that he can be their star of the future.

The championship may be over, and the Mercedes drivers are playing only for the pride of the Sakhir GP. But that could well be defining for Russell’s career, as the Sky F1’s expert team explained ahead of the weekend.

“He’s been running for two years, George said, with nothing really to show,” Kravitz said. “Now he’s in the best car, and let’s see what he can do. It’s very exciting for Mercedes and British motorsport. ”

Anthony Davidson, a Mercedes simulation driver, added: “This is the car everyone dreams of being: the Mercedes, the car Lewis dominates the world in.

“It’s not good enough to be fast and show your lap times, you also need to have a little luck and timing on your side. This is George’s luck. ”

Why Mercedes chose Russell

When Mercedes confirmed Hamilton’s positive coronavirus test on Tuesday morning, there were immediately big favorites for the ride. Stoffel Vandoorne, the official reserve of the team which has competed in several Grands Prix this year testing positive for a Mercedes driver, was understandably a favorite while Nico Hulkenberg – who impressed by intervening three times late at Racing Point . this year – was also mentioned.

But in the end, Mercedes chose Russell, the driver they nurtured – from a Formula 2 championship to integrating the F1 grid with Williams in 2019 – and the driver who did very little harm, and a lot of good since then.

“Really, it’s Mercedes that brings the positive news of the bodywork blow, is that their main driver and world champion Lewis Hamilton had contracted Covid-19,” Kravitz explained.

“It wasn’t a great story for them, but they really turned that negative into a really big positive, giving their development driver, a young driver, George Russell, the chance to make his Grand Prix debut in a top team like Mercedes. . ”

1:02
Fernando Alonso thinks George Russell was the outstanding driver of all the young talent in F1

Fernando Alonso thinks George Russell was the outstanding driver of all the young talent in F1

If Russell has yet to score a point in F1, it is because of the car at his disposal rather than his talent. His only real chances this year came at Mugello – when he fought fiercely with Sebastian Vettel and finished 11th – and at Imola – as he ran in the points before crashing under the Safety Car. This is the only notable mistake Russell made in F1.

But Russell is still widely recognized as one of the stars, if not the, of the future of F1, with Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both voicing that particular opinion. With no results on race day it may be because of the performances Russell managed to produce on Saturday.

Incredibly, Russell has never been overqualified by an F1 teammate after 36 attempts. He has also reached Q2 in the Williams nine times this year, eight more than Nicholas Latifi.

“George did a great job in qualifying, he absolutely excelled,” said Paul Di Resta of Sky F1. “What we haven’t seen is how he deals with the leadership and the pressure at Mercedes. But he’s definitely in the best car.

“I think he will be very professional. He’s at a good age, he has a number of people supporting him, especially at the top. He is well placed to make a good impression. ”

What do we expect from Russell at the Sakhir GP?

Mercedes won all but one pole in F1 2020 – with the exception of a wet Turkish GP – and won all but two races – with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly wins more due to circumstances than pure and simple speed.

But, as Di Resta noted of Russell, who has never driven the W11 and was last tested for Mercedes a year ago: “The wait for a seven-time champion car of the world… that’s a very decent question.

“He doesn’t have a test first, what he does goes straight to where Lewis left off. ”

But that doesn’t mean the pressure will be off, far from it. Especially since he has been driving and impressing in F1 for two years and he is very Well noted.

2:25
Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz says Mick Schumacher ‘echoes’ his father’s journey by starting his Formula 1 career with one of the sport’s smaller teams as he joins Haas

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz says Mick Schumacher ‘echoes’ his father’s journey by starting his Formula 1 career with one of the sport’s smaller teams as he joins Haas

“There is a clear difference between Pietro Fittipaldi jumping for Romain Grosjean, or Jack Aitken at Williams this weekend,” said Davidson. “The expectations of these guys are low, while George – despite being in a bad car at the back of the grid – he expects to have to deliver because he has delivered a Williams before.

“Now he is expected to deliver a Mercedes. ”

So what would represent a good result for Russell this weekend?

“It will be very difficult for George, but he’s an expert on a Saturday, so I think the top four of qualifying would be a very good result for him – he should be pretty close to the Red Bulls,” Kravitz said. “Once again, in the race, the top four would be very good, although a podium might be expected in the car he’s driving. ”

Di Resta added, “Honestly, when you watch him and see what Hulkenberg did when he stood this year, you’d expect him to be on the front row. He could easily qualify for P1. ”

Is the pressure on Russell or Bottas?

Russell has been biting for a Mercedes drive since arriving on the F1 grid with Williams, but has been overlooked for a racing seat in favor of Valtteri Bottas, who will start his fifth season with the team next year.

The pair will be temporary teammates this weekend.

Although Bottas hasn’t been a game for Hamilton this year, with just two wins against the champion’s 11, he should, comfortably enough, beat Russell at the Sakhir GP given his experience and speed in the car.

“Bottas’ benchmark remains for George, so it will be fascinating to see how George fares against this known amount in Bottas,” Davidson said.

Di Resta, suggesting that this weekend could be crucial for Mercedes’ long-term future for both drivers, continued: “This is where Valtteri needs to make a stamp, because that’s the fight.

“Who will be number 2 at Mercedes? ”

All the action from the Sakhir GP is live only on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Qualifying begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, ramping up from 4 p.m., while the race starts at 5.10 p.m. on Sunday, with a climb from 3.30 p.m.



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