George Russell preparing to stand in for Lewis Hamilton again in Abu Dhabi
George Russell says he is preparing for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as if he will be deputising for Lewis Hamilton again, amid continued doubts over whether the seven-time world champion will be fit to race.
Following 10 days in isolation in Bahrain, Hamilton could have travelled to Abu Dhabi on Thursday, providing he returned a negative coronavirus test.
But there was no sign of the Briton at the Yas Marina track as Russell, on loan from Williams, completed his media duties in a Mercedes top.
Although Mercedes have offered no update on their star driver, Hamilton’s no-show would indicate he is not free of the illness. The world champions are prepared to give Hamilton, 35, until Saturday to prove his fitness for the season finale.
Until then, Russell, who was cruelly robbed of victory on his Mercedes debut last Sunday in Bahrain, will hold the keys to the world champion’s cockpit.
“We are still waiting to get Lewis’s results back, so I am unsure who I will be racing for,” said Russell, 22.
“For now, we are going ahead as planned, and if Lewis returns a negative result, he will be back in the car.
“But I was here this morning working with the engineers and treating everything as if I am going to be driving the Mercedes this weekend.”
Russell delivered an imperious performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix last Sunday.
He was on course to become only the fourth British driver to win a Formula One race this century before a Mercedes pit-stop howler – and then a late puncture – derailed his bid.
“My mum was in tears afterwards and my sister, too,” added Russell.
“We live this sport together and it is so passionate, and emotions are so high. It was my first opportunity, not just for a win but to score points, and to have that taken away, not once but twice, was difficult.
“But having had time to reflect on the weekend, I have my head held high and I am proud of the job I managed to achieve.
“Last week exceeded expectations, but it is nice to have been recognised for the job I did and I will be approaching this weekend the same.
“It is only my second grand prix in the Mercedes and I still have a hell of a lot to learn and it is going to be difficult. But it will be great to get another opportunity.”
Russell, a Mercedes junior driver, had said he hoped his performance in Bahrain would put pressure on team principal Toto Wolff to put him in one of his cars next season.
But, speaking on Thursday, Russell said: “That was just a throwaway remark in the heat of the moment after the race. Emotions were high. I have a contract, and I am a Williams driver for 2021.”