World champion Hamilton is not available to race and Mercedes have turned to fellow Brit Russell to fill the void after agreeing terms on a temporary switch with Williams for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell’s career has been guided by Mercedes since 2017 and he acted as their reserve driver in 2018 before being allowed to join Williams on a three-year deal ahead of the start of last season.
The 22-year-old is delighted to have been handed the opportunity to race for the seven-time Constructors’ Champions in Bahrain, although he is no doubt that his loyalties still rest with Williams.
Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc both say they expect George Russell to at least be in contention for a podium finish at this weekend’s Sakir Grand Prix.
“I think he can achieve a pole,” said Norris. “I think he can achieve a win. I think if there’s any weekend maybe Mercedes have a smaller advantage than any other weekend, it’s probably here, so he’s taken a step up into the team at probably one of the toughest weekends of the year, in terms of their advantage that they probably have over the rest of the field.”
Ferrari driver Leclerc has echoed Norris’ belief in Russell and says he expects to be battling with him for a place on the podium.
“For me, a podium at least,” said Leclerc when asked what he thought Russell could achieve in the Sakhir Grand Prix, ‘but I have some hope of a win. I mean, it’s very optimistic but I know he’s very good, so I could bet on a win.”
While Russell says he’s not setting himself any targets for the Sakhir Grand Prix, expectations for the weekend were raised in Friday’s first practice session when he set the fastest time in his Mercedes.
Russell is 15/8 to win the Sakhir Grand Prix, with Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas 15/8 and Norris 100/1.
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