Mad scramble for Lewis Hamilton’s seat
Mercedes have enjoyed an incredibly successful 2020 season with Lewis Hamilton wrapping up the drivers' championships and the team securing the constructors title.
In the final weeks of the season however a spanner has been thrown into the works after Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19.
Hamilton's positive test will now see him miss the Sakhir Grand Prix and now raises the biggest question of all: Who will drive his Mercedes this weekend?
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Mercedes' designated reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne was in Valencia doing a Formula E test, with the Belgian set to fly to Bahrain shortly after.
The announcement of just who will step in for the now isolating Hamilton won't be announced by Mercedes until Thursday, just under 48 hours away from the first practice session of the weekend.
Vandoorne was the first name floated as Hamilton's replacement with the former McLaren driver the easiest inclusion.
"I don't know what is going to happen [but] I know there is a chance for me to drive," Vandoorne, 28, said.
"But let's wait and see. I'm travelling tomorrow and I'll find out. I got a first message this morning around seven.
"The team told me that Lewis tested positive and they were going to announce an hour later. But afterwards it's just been kind of waiting."
Shortly after the Hamilton news came to light however, a wave of support from Formula 1 fans began to swell for Williams driver George Russell.
Russell, 22, has yet to land a point in Formula 1 with the British youngster finishing a painstaking 11th during the Tuscany Grand Prix.
The Williams driver is a part of the Mercedes young driver program and fans want more than anything to see him secure his first points.
A report from Autosport indicates Russell has emerged as the frontrunner to be behind the wheel of the Mercedes despite his contract with Williams.
"Mercedes having a good relationship with the Williams team, it is possible that a separate deal could be arranged to loan him out. Sources suggest that discussions about a potential deal are ongoing," the story says.
If Russell were to shift to Mercedes for this weekend, the door would be open for Vandoorne to drive for Williams. However the team is likely to promote reserve driver Jack Aitken to make his Formula 1 debut.
Both Russell and Vandoorne have both had seat fittings with the Silver Arrows, a factor that is likely to rule out Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg stepped in to drive for Racing Point after Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the season.
But the German star was quick to shut down the possibility of getting behind the wheel of the Mercedes with a not-so-subtle Instagram post.
Former Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button jokingly threw his hat into the ring after the Hamilton news by telling Mercedes he was available this weekend.
Button tweeted to the team with an emoji of a mobile phone and a man putting his hands up in a shrug.
He followed it up with: "I promise I won't pee in Lewis Hamilton's seat". A throwback to a threat Button made to Fernando Alonso when he replaced him for the Monaco Grand Prix in 2017.
Mercedes got in on the joke with a hilarious reply, showing an image of a iPhone and several missed calls from Button with the caption: "Toto's phone right now".
Former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg weighed in on just who should replace Hamilton with the 2016 world champion throwing his support behind Russell.
"Petition for Mercedes to race @GeorgeRussell63 this weekend! Would be great! Most importantly though: All the best @LewisHamilton for a fast health recovery," he wrote.
We'll know soon enough just who will get to drive the fastest car on the grid this weekend around the Bahrain circuit for the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Originally published as Mad scramble for Lewis Hamilton's seat