Mercedes Hamilton replacement drive revealed in “2am bathroom call” - Russell
George Russell has revealed he was in the bathroom in the early hours of the morning when Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called to ask him to replace Lewis Hamilton in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Mercedes protégé and former test driver Russell, who now races with Williams, took the call after Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19 following last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
But it was in a dream-like conversation that Russell, who is yet to score his first F1 point after 36 races, initially discovered he was to be given the chance to step up to top machinery.
“I got a phone call from Toto at 2am on Tuesday morning and I was in the bathroom at the time, which was slightly awkward,” recounted Russell.
“I answered the phone and he said ‘George, are you in the bathroom?’ So I said ‘Yeah, I am in the bathroom,’ And he said ‘Unfortunately, Lewis has caught Covid, he’s doing well and feels fine, which is most important, but we want you to drive.’”
Russell further revealed to enduring "a sleepless night" and a busy day after that, as he and the two teams tried to broker a deal for him to make the switch.
“We made it happen throughout the following day,” he added. “I counted yesterday, I had 64 phone calls on Tuesday, pinging between so many different people, so I am glad we got there in the end.”
The drive could be seen as the dream opportunity for the 22-year-old as he steps into a title-winning car that could give him the chance to not just score his first point, but his first 25 if he managed the unthinkable and won on Sunday.
But Russell, as cool and collected as ever, is keeping his feet on the ground and insisting he is simply focused on “doing the best job I can".
Asked if it was a ‘fairytale’ opportunity, he said: “I’d say fairytale is the wrong word because this is not the way I envisaged my first opportunity in a Mercedes race car. Obviously, these are odd circumstances.
“This year has just been mental on all accounts, not just for me. There are much greater problems going on in the world, but from a personal perspective, it’s been up, down, left, right, centre, and this is just another twist to the tale.
“It still seems a bit surreal and I’m sure in years to come I will look back at 2020 and say ‘What an unbelievable year’.”
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