George Russell under “no pressure” in a Mercedes car for the Sakhir Grand Prix

George Russell (right) will race alongside Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes in the Sakhir Grand Prix this weekend

George Russell says he’s ‘not under pressure’ as he prepares to drive Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes at the Sakhir Grand Prix this weekend

Hamilton must have missed the race because he tested positive for coronavirus and Mercedes negotiated a temporary release for Russell from his Williams team.

Russell, who dismissed the idea that it was an audition for a Mercedes seat in 2022, said: “No goal was expected of me by Mercedes because you can’t judge someone. on a race. “

Teammate Valtteri Bottas’s contract lasts until the end of next season and many F1 will see Russell driving to Bahrain this weekend – and possibly Abu Dhabi the following weekend if Hamilton doesn’t recover in time – like a showdown between the two. .

“It’s not on my mind,” Russell said. “I’m going to go out there, enjoy it and learn as much as I can.

“I have a job to do when I come back to Williams and try to move this team forward. I have to seize this opportunity with both hands and maximize the learning. The future will be judged over the course of a season, and what has happened in the past, not just one or maybe two races.

Bottas admitted: “If he beats me I sure wouldn’t look so good if I had a normal fair and square run so I try to avoid that. But I’m not a thinking person like that, I’m trying to turn things into motivation and positive thinking and that’s my state of mind for this weekend.

Russell stressed that he faces a difficult task this weekend.

He was a Mercedes reserve driver in 2017 and 2018 and completed just over 6,500 km of testing for the team, but didn’t even drive the 2020 car in the team’s simulator.

“I’m thrown out at the last chance,” the 22-year-old said. “I haven’t driven their simulator for two years. My seat is three years old. I have so much information to learn and facing Valtteri won’t be easy.

“Valtteri has taken Lewis to an incredible level over the years.

“When you’re in the groove, integrated into a team – I know the level where I was at Williams. By suddenly changing, there is so much new to learn. I have no expectations, no goals.

“I am in a good position. I don’t put any extra pressure on myself. I’ll go out and enjoy it.

“This weekend will be devoted to learning, in particular Friday. If I get the chance next week in Abu Dhabi, who knows, it will be easier.

George Russell has yet to score a driver’s championship point in his 36 races with Williams

When did Russell first find out?

Russell said the first indication he might be in the Mercedes this weekend was a phone call from team boss Toto Wolff at 2:00 a.m. Tuesday.

“I was actually in the bathroom which was a bit awkward. Russell said. “Toto said,” George, are you in the bathroom? And I said I am. He said: ‘Lewis has Covid, he’s fine and feeling fine, which is most important, and we want you to drive. “

“It happened the next day. I had 64 phone calls on Tuesday between so many different people. Glad we got there at the end.

“It means a lot to me that Mercedes gave me this opportunity, because it was not easy, a lot of effort went into making this deal a reality.

“Logistically, having the helmets painted in 24 hours, flying the suits from Italy, so much had to happen in such a short time.

“Knowing that they were ready to do it meant a lot to me and I have to pay it back with my performance and my best efforts, whatever position it might mean.”

At 6ft 1, Russell is 14cm taller than Hamilton and said it was a “tight fit” to get him into the car.

This forced him to use riding boots one size smaller than his usual size 11.

“It’s a little uncomfortable,” he said, “but I’m sure I can take the pain of this opportunity.”

Russell said he had yet to speak to Hamilton, who is isolated after testing positive, but expected to do so over the weekend.

Russell was replaced at Williams by the team’s reserve driver, Briton Jack Aitken.

The 25-year-old has already driven the Williams in the first practice of the Styrian Grand Prix in July and said: “I have no doubt that I am ready to step in.

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