Tuesday saw a major shakeup on the starting grid for Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix as seven-time and 2020 world champion in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton, tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to miss Sunday’s race. Hamilton has enjoyed a stellar season, winning 11 of 15 races this season, including the past five. This will be the first race Hamilton misses since becoming a full-time driver for McLaren in 2007.
Mercedes needed to choose a replacement driver for Sunday’s race and selected George Russell, one of the two drivers for Williams Racing. Russell, despite not gaining a single point in his two years racing for Williams, has shown promise as one of the best young drivers in the sport, running six days of practice and tests with Mercedes in the past and is 36-0 in out-qualifying his teammate in his career.
Russell has an average start of 15.8, which is higher than both drivers at Haas, Alfa Romeo and his 2020 teammate, Nicholas Latifi. He has finished 11th once and 12th twice this season for the racing team last in the constructor’s standings. He was in contention for points at the Emilia Romagna GP before crashing behind the safety car.
Williams will replace Russell with Jack Aitken, their reserve driver who competes in FIA F2. He has 48 points this season with two podiums and 10 points finishes. Aitken will make his F1 debut on Sunday after spending 2018 and 2019 as the reserve and test driver for Renault. He also won the 2015 Formula Renault Eurocup, a series which current F1 drivers such as Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly have also won. He will be racing in the No. 89 this weekend.
Pietro Fittipaldi will fill in for Romain Grosjean this weekend
Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix saw Haas driver Romain Grosjean survive a horrific crash in which his car was split in half before igniting in flames. Grosjean suffered burns on his hands and ankles before being transported to a hospital. He was discharged yesterday.
Grosjean will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix to recover from his injuries as reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will fill in. He is the grandson of two-time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi (1972 and 1974) and like Aitken, he will make his F1 debut this weekend. The Brazilian driver finished fifth in the 2019-20 F3 Asian Championship, ran six races in IndyCar in 2018, scoring 91 points for Dale Coyne Racing and won the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5, a series in which current F1 drivers Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz also won. Fittipaldi will race in the No. 51 car this weekend.
Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher will compete full-time for Haas in 2021
Haas continues to be in the F1 news this week as they announced Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher as their two drivers for 2021. Mazepin has competed full-time this season in F2, ranking third in the driver standings at 162 points with two race wins, six podiums and two fastest laps. He finished second in the 2018 GP3 series and third in the 2019-20 F3 Asian Championship.
As for Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, he will finally make his F1 debut in 2021. He is the current points leader in F2 with 205 points, two race wins and 10 podiums. He has worked his way up from Formula 4 all the way to Formula 1 in 2021. He finished second in the 2016 ADAC and Italian Formula 4 Championship and won the 2018 Formula 3 European Championship. He will drive in FP1 in the final race weekend at Abu Dhabi.