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George Russell: Sakhir GP a confidence boost for 2021

George Russell
George Russell's contract with Williams expires at the end of 2021. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images
ANALYST
Modified 22 Mar 2021
News

George Russell's stock soared after he put together a sensational weekend as the stand-in driver for Lewis Hamilton at last year's Sakhir Grand Prix. Although he couldn't win the race, George Russell notched up the first points of his Formula 1 career. The highlight of the entire weekend was arguably his stunning overtake on Valtteri Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19, which thrust George Russell into the coveted Mercedes seat for a single race. The young Brit showed his ability as he took the lead at the start of the race after diving down Bottas' inside. But a communication error on the Mercedes pit wall led to a disastrous evening for the young Brit, who was comfortably leading the race.

Looking back, George Russell feels his performance over the weekend gave him confidence in his ability to hang with the best drivers on the grid.

"What was very interesting for me was I qualified second, which was my best qualifying ever – I think previously it was 12th – and I was disappointed not to be on pole,” said Russell.
“Just because you're suddenly at the front of a grid, it doesn't change that goal, that satisfaction you get by getting the absolute most out of your equipment. "

Speaking about his learning experiences from the weekend, Russell said:

“Equally coming away from that event, I had a few tough days. But equally, I put it behind me, I learned from it. I was very grateful to Mercedes and Williams for giving me the chance, and ultimately I had to see that race as a victory in itself, even if I didn't get the trophy at the end of the day.
“[I am] then coming into the season with more confidence and belief in myself, and that's great for me, great for the team, and great for everyone. So yeah, it was a good opportunity.”

George Russell unsure of a possible stand-in role at Mercedes in the future

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Mercedes are looking to hire Nico Hulkenberg as a stand-in driver. The team's reserve drivers, Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne are also in contention for the same.

When asked about his chances of returning as the reserve driver for Mercedes, George Russell said:

"I mean, nothing official has been decided. Obviously, that was all arranged very last minute for us last year."
“They need to be prepared because these things can happen on a Friday night, for another driver to be able to do the race, but I think we'll just cross that bridge when we get there.”

George Russell will drive for Williams in 2021, in what is the last season before his contract expires.

Published 22 Mar 2021, 18:32 IST
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