George Russell has spoken out following the news that Lewis Hamilton will return for Mercedes at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, declaring that he is “glad” his fellow Brit is back to full health and that he is “buzzing” to return to Williams.
The 22-year-old replaced Hamilton while he was absent with COVID-19 at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain last weekend and finished ninth. But despite Russell donning Mercedes gear in the drivers’ press conference on Thursday, the Silver Arrows later confirmed that Hamilton would be returning.
A team statement read: “The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team is pleased to confirm that Lewis Hamilton will drive for the team in this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Lewis tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday prior to completion of his self-isolation period in Bahrain. This enabled him to travel to Abu Dhabi on Thursday afternoon, and he tested negative on arrival.
“George Russell will return to Williams Racing for the final event of the 2020 season.”
And while it means Russell will not be fighting at the front of the pack at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi race, the final event of the 2020 Formula One season, he is pleased that Hamilton is well again.
Posting twice on Twitter, Russell posted a picture of himself in his Williams racing suit and said: “Back home @WilliamsRacing, checking it still fits! Did I miss much?”
He added in a follow-up post: “Seriously though, glad to see @LewisHamilton back and fighting fit.
“Had a blast with @MercedesAMGF1 but now I’m buzzing to put everything I’ve learned into action with my team @WilliamsRacing. Gonna give it everything this weekend – just as they do for me week in, week out.”
Despite ending in ninth in Sakhir, Russell enjoyed an excellent weekend overall for Mercedes, qualifying in second just behind Valtteri Bottas on pole.
He overtook the Finn at the first corner on the first lap of the race and led for much of it, only to be denied a maiden victory by a tyre mix-up at a pitstop and then a puncture. Still, Russell only enhanced his reputation and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said: “We learned that George Russell is somebody to count on in the future, he has all the potential and all the ingredients that a future star needs.
“In that respect, I am sad with that result that he could have had in his first race for Mercedes, but from the other side, I am happy about his performances.”
“I feel for George. We didn’t want to set expectations high but he over-delivered and over-delivered and over-delivered.”
“He over-delivered on Friday, he over-delivered in qualifying when he was just a few hundredths away [0.026s] from Valtteri and he over-delivered in the race.”
“There is now no doubt that he’s F1 world-champion material. He didn’t make any mistakes in a challenging situation.”
“He drove impeccably until he had the win taken away. Any doubts anyone had, will be gone. Clearly he’s exceptional.”