F1 Today – Russell to Mercedes & Schumacher name returns – 02/12/2020

F1 Today

Russell announced as Hamilton stand-in

George Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix after the seven-time champion was ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Englishman has effectively been recalled by Mercedes from his three-year loan deal, where he has impressed since making his F1 debut last season. Mercedes asked Williams to temporarily release Russell from his contract yesterday with confirmation this morning.

After crashing out at Imola when on course for his first points finish, Russell now has a chance to score points and even a victory this weekend. Russell also has out-qualified his team-mates thirty-six zero in his thirty-six Grands Prix.

Russell said “Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity. I might be wearing a different race suit this weekend, but I’m a Williams driver and I’ll be cheering my team on every step of the way.”

“I see this as a great chance to learn from the best outfit on the grid right now and to come back as an improved driver, with even more energy and experience to help push Williams further up the grid. A big thank you also to Mercedes for putting their faith in me.”

Russell says no one can replace the seven-time champion, but was really looking forward to the opportunity while wishing him a speedy recovery.

Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff, who also manages Russell’s career, added “First and foremost, I wish to thank our loyal partners at Williams for their collaboration and open-mindedness in making it possible for George to race for Mercedes this weekend. The conversations with the team at Williams were positive and pragmatic, and those were the key factors in reaching an agreement”

He accepted this was not a straight forward task given the tight turnaround, but says his race readiness is a key factor, which has been key in allowing Williams to jump up the grid. Wolff has optimism that Russell can deliver a strong performance alongside Valtteri, who will be a demanding reference for him.

The team also said it will not confirm its plans for next weekends race in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton, if he tests negative by next Thursday, should be allowed to race. However, it will be expected Russell will be on stand by if Hamilton cannot race.


Aitken to make debut with Williams

Jack Aitken will make his Formula One debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix after George Russell was announced as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement after he tested positive for Coronavirus.

The British-Korean driver has raced in Formula Two this season and is Williams test and reserve driver. Aitken was Russell’s teammate in GP3 in 2017 and is currently fourteenth in the F2 standings after finishing fifth in the championship last year with three race wins.

He joined Williams at the start of the 2020 season and drove this year’s car during Friday practice for the Styrian Grand Prix in July. Aitken has also tested for Renault on several occasions.

Aitken said, “I’m absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to make my debut with Williams this coming weekend and I am extremely happy for George to have his chance too.”

“I really mean it when I say I’ve felt very much at home here since I joined Williams earlier this year, so to get my chance to help the team try to achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least.”

Acting team principal Simon Roberts added, “We have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to allow him this fantastic opportunity. George very much remains a Williams driver and we look forward to him returning to us fresh from this experience and wish him a successful race this weekend.”

“We are also thrilled this means we are able to give another British talent in Jack Aitken the opportunity to make his Formula One race debut. Jack joined Williams at the start of this season, and despite COVID-19 restrictions meaning we haven’t been able to interact with him as much as we would like, he has quickly become a much-liked member of the team.”


Schumacher joins Haas for 2021

Mick Schumacher will make his Formula One debut next year with Haas, with the Schumacher name returning to the grid for the first time since 2012. Mick is the son of the seven times champion Michael, who was equalled by Lewis Hamilton in Istanbul.

The German was already scheduled to make his practice debut in Abu Dhabi next weekend after his first outing at the Nürburgring was cancelled due to poor weather. He will then drive the VF-20 in the young driver test at the same circuit the following Tuesday.

Yesterday it was announced he would be partnered with Nikita Mazepin. Schumacher said, “The prospect of being on the Formula One grid next year makes me incredibly happy and I’m simply speechless.”

“I would like to thank Haas F1 Team, Scuderia Ferrari and the Ferrari Driver Academy for placing their trust in me. I also want to acknowledge and extend my love to my parents – I know that I owe them everything.”

Schumacher’s immediate aim at the Sakhir Grand Prix is to wrap up the Formula Two championship. He currently leads the championship with one round remaining, having already won in Formula Three while he is also part of the young driver programme of Ferrari.

When it was announced that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were leaving Haas at the end of the year, Schumacher was seen as a leading candidate to take at least one Ferrari-backed starlet.

Team boss Guenther Steiner said: “Mick has won races, collected podiums and excelled against some pretty exceptional talent in 2020. I firmly believe he’s earned the opportunity to graduate into Formula One based on his performances.”

“We have an opportunity ahead of us, as a team, to evaluate and nurture a new driver given our familiarity with our race package heading into 2021.”

Mick has a huge name to live up to, his speed is not as immediate as his father. However, he has managed to win championships in every series he has taken part in and is looking to do the same this weekends season finale.


Grosjean discharged from hospital

Romain Grosjean has been discharged from hospital in Bahrain following his fiery crash in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The Frenchman escaped the burning wreckage of his Haas with only burns, following the 137mph and 50g crash at Turn Four.

Grosjean was taken to the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital after escaping the fire and being taken to the medical centre and was suspected to have broken a rib in the crash.

But subsequent X-rays showed that Grosjean had sustained no fractures, meaning he only required treatment to the burns on his hands. This Morning Haas announced Grosjean will remain in Bahrain for further private treatment.

A statement said, “Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean was discharged from the care of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital at 10:30am local time on Wednesday. Grosjean spent three nights in hospital following Sunday’s incident at the Bahrain Grand Prix.”

“Grosjean will continue private treatment for the burns suffered on the back of his hands and will remain in Bahrain for the time being. On behalf of Romain Grosjean and the entire Haas F1 Team, we extend our thanks to all who have tended to him at the BDF Hospital”

Grosjean will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain as a result of his injuries, with his place at Haas being taken by reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi. But he is hopeful of returning in two weeks, if possible.

Haas F1 team principal Gunther Steiner said, “I spoke to him yesterday about it, he really wants to be in Abu Dhabi. But I said, ‘try to get better, we’ll speak on Sunday or Monday let’s say, how you feel if it is doable.’”

“Pietro is here, Romain is here, we just have to see how he feels, so I’m not in a hurry to decide what to do, or what is needed. It depends on his health.”


Not taking risks and the left-hand key – Grosjean

Romain Grosjean says that his left hand now holds the key to whether he will able to return for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Frenchman says following his discharge this morning, he says his focus for the next few days is on helping the burns heal.

But he says that it is the swelling of his left hand that will ultimately decide if he is fit enough to drive. Grosjean told French media, “If my left-hand doesn’t work next week and I’m not able to do everything I have to do with it, I won’t take a risk and drive.”

“But I’m trying to rest as much as I can and follow the doctors’ recommendations so that it heals. First, it needs to become less swollen, because it’s very swollen at the moment. There may have been an impact on the thumb’s ligament during the crash.”

He says the left side of his body took most of the impact, spraining his ankle, hitting his knee as well as bruising to his left shoulder, buttock and forearm.

Adding “I’ve got strength and I can move it in many ways. I can close my fist. However, I can’t touch my little finger yet. I would normally be able to [but I can’t at the moment] because it’s inflamed and there’s a big bandage too.”

Grosjean also sprained his left ankle as he tried to get out of the car, with his boot understood to have been trapped behind the brake pedals and coming off as he jumped out. He says the only remaining question is over his left hand.

He has already spoken to his wife, the French-language F1 presenter Marion Jolles, and informed her that he would return home as planned after Abu Dhabi, which he said. “I’m going to Abu Dhabi. I’m sorry for you, I need it for myself.”


Schumacher ready to step in for Grosjean

Mick Schumacher says he is ready to step in to replace Romain Grosjean at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where he will also take part in first practice for Haas. Grosjean was discharged to his hotel in Bahrain following his accident in Sunday’s race, where he suffered burns to his hands.

Haas has already announced Reserve drive Pietro Fittipaldi is replacing Grosjean for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, and at the moment the plan is for Frenchman to return for the Abu Dhabi finale. The decision on whether Grosjean will take part in the race is expected next week.

Schumacher told Motorsport.com, “I think it’s great if you are considered to be ready to do that. I feel like I am. Obviously, you have three FPs, in which you have time to learn. It would be a challenge, but definitely, I think I would be able get to know the car more to be even better prepared for next year.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner insisted that so far there has been no discussion about the possibility of Schumacher racing. He said, “We haven’t spoken. As I said before, at the moment the status is I want to see where Romain is on Monday.”

“That’s what I agreed with him. We have got enough drivers on standby, who can drive, so I’m not worried about that, and we just take the decision when we know hundred per cent that Romain can not drive.” Steiner said the aim was to allow Grosjean to finish his time with Haas on a high.

Although Schumacher will get his first run in the Haas on Friday in Abu Dhabi Steiner downplayed the significance of the FP1 outing, and suggested that winter testing with the 2021 car would be more important.

Steiner believes that FP1 session is important, but wasn’t one where you can learn much but the main learning objective was dealing with pressure on a race event.

He added, “But the most important thing is that we have a flawless test before next season, that we don’t have any issues in the three days, because three days is not a lot of testing, divided by two.”

Asked why Schumacher and not his future teammate Nikita Mazepin had been given the Abu Dhabi FP1 run Steiner said: “It just developed like this, sometimes things just develop like this. There is no real analysis or study of it done, I don’t know who was there first.”


Ferrari drivers clear the air following Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc spoke after the Bahrain Grand Prix to clear the air following a complaint from Vettel about his team-mate’s move at Turn One.

The four-times champion was frustrated by his teammates move into the first corner at the restart of the race, feeling that his teammate did not leave enough room.

Following a pass up the inside by Leclerc, Vettel said on team radio: “Not again! He can’t just do that, as if I wasn’t there. It’s the same as Austria, seriously. This time, I should have crashed, maybe [that] was the better option.”

Leclerc’s move at the start of the Styrian Grand Prix resulted in contact between the two Ferrari drivers, forcing both to retire from the race. While in the race in Bahrain Leclerc finished tenth, while Vettel was thirteenth after being hit from behind by Kevin Magnussen’s Haas when he slowed to avoid the clash between Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll, reporting that his car felt undriveable at times.

Leclerc and Vettel confirmed after the race in Bahrain that they had spoken about the incident, with Leclerc feeling it was a different situation to Austria.

The Monacan told Autosport, “We spoke about it. On my side, the only thing I can say is that surely it was extremely tight, but on the other hand, not like in Styria, where I didn’t put myself in a visible place.”

“This time I tried to go further for him to see me. There was very little gap, but I went for it, and I made sure that he saw me. You can argue there was probably not enough gap between our cars being in the same team, but yeah, that’s it.”

Vettel said that Ferrari “don’t need to make a big deal out of it”, feeling he and Leclerc can move on quickly. The four-time champion added, “Arguably if you have three cars in the first corner, then at times, it works, and most of the time it doesn’t work. We spoke about it so we can move on, it’s not a big deal.”


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