It has been a hectic 48 hours after the dramatic events of the 2020 Bahrain GP. The best news first: Grosjean has been discharged from hospital and is making a steady recovery which suggests we might get to see him drive his final F1 race at Abu Dhabi. Now, onto the biggest news:
George Russell will be filling in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix this weekend!!
The 2020 Champion tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday with mild symptoms and will be missing the race this weekend as he observes the quarantine protocols. After a flurry of internet rumours, Mercedes confirmed that they will be using Williams driver and Mercedes academy alumni Russell to fill the spot. This is a big break for the 2018 F2 Champion who has been languishing at the back of the grid in F1 while driving for Williams. He’s been improving his qualifying performance each weekend but is yet to score a championship point. Unlike the case of Esteban Ocon, Russell will actually drive a race-winning car thanks to his association with Mercedes and the team’s cordial relationship with Williams Racing. The Sakhir GP is the second race at the Bahrain circuit but this time it’ll be using the outer layout which is more oval in nature and unlikely to ever be part of a regular F1 season. This weekend is definitely building up to a special moment. Russell playing substitute for Mercedes has allowed Williams’ reserve driver Jack Aitken to make his F1 debut too.
We already shared the news that Haas will be using their reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi to fill in for Grosjean this weekend. However, the American outfit has now confirmed its driver lineup for 2021: Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Both Schumacher and Mazepin are Ferrari juniors as are other 2020 F2 championship contenders Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman. Ilott had recently announced on Twitter that he won’t be racing in F1 in 2021.
Mick is currently top of the driver’s standings in the F2 2020 championship with just one round left. Of course, there is much hype for the Schumacher name returning to F1 in its second-generation. We know Haas won’t be able to make much progress with Ferrari’s underpowered engine and other developmental issues but it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against other backmarkers as well. Mick will generate some interest in Haas again thanks to his father’s legacy and expectations are quite high. Here’s a sweet clip of Mick and Michael that has been shared online following the youngster’s confirmation for F1 2021:
Another interesting outcome of this decision is that we’ll see a second-gen Schumacher racing a Ferrari powered car against Fernando Alonso who’ll be driving a Renault powered Alpine.
As somebody who doesn’t follow F2, Mazepin is an unknown to me but he is currently third in the standings, behind Ilott and only just ahead of Shwartzman. However, the social media reaction to his signing reveals that he is not exactly a popular character with a history of questionable behaviour and making public comments in poor taste. It is no surprise that F1 is a big-money sport and if you bring big sponsors, you’re more likely to get a seat. Mazepin is the son of a billionaire businessman and used to be a development driver for Force India as well so he has some experience with F1 teams.
With these updates, the only F1 seats still unconfirmed for the 2021 season are Hamilton, Kvyat and Albon. Stay tuned for more updates by subscribing to get the latest updates from the Auto Loons.