Jenson Button has jokingly told Mercedes he’s free this weekend with the Silver Arrows yet to confirm who will replace Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain. The constructors’ champions will be without their champion driver for the penultimate race of the 2020 Formula One season after he tested positive for coronavirus.
The Brit may also end up being absent for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 13 but for now Mercedes are focused on who will replace their No 1 driver to race alongside Valtteri Bottas this weekend.
A statement from Hamilton read on Tuesday: “I’m devastated that I won’t be racing this weekend. Since we started the season in June my team and I have been taking all the precautions we possibly can and following the regulations everywhere we’ve been to stay safe.
“Unfortunately, even though I returned three negative results this past week, I woke up yesterday morning with mild symptoms and requested another test, which came back positive. I’ve immediately gone into self-islolation for ten days.
“I am gutted not to be able to race this weekend but my priority is to follow the protocols and advice to protect others. I’m really lucky that I feel ok with only mild symptoms and will do my best to stay fit and healthy.”
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Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, currently driving for the German manufacturer in Formula E, and George Russell – who drives for Williams but is effectively on loan given he is a member of Mercedes’ junior driver programme – are the main options to replace Hamilton in Sakhir.
But former F1 world champion Button, a team-mate of Hamilton’s at McLaren from 2010 and 2012 having won the title in 2009, has joked that he would be keen to step in for his fellow Brit.
In two tweets, the 40-year-old – who spent 17 seasons in F1 and racked up 15 race wins and 30 podiums – first posted two emojis, one of a phone and another of a man shrugging, while tagging Mercedes.
In a second, he wrote: “@MercedesAMGF1 I promise I won’t pee in @LewisHamilton seat!”
Mercedes have no shortage of suitors looking to fill Hamilton’s seat on a temporary basis, although Vandoorne and Russell are the chief options.
F2 driver and Haas reserve Louis Deletraz, currently racing for Charouz and who has managed four podium finishes this season, playfully threw his own hat into the ring via social media.
Quote-tweeting Mercedes’ statement on Hamilton, the Swiss wrote: “Hi @MercedesAMGF1. I’m in Bahrain, I have my super license, Haas is not using me. Also I was on the podium on that exact same track two days ago. Please?”
Belgian Vandoorne, who drove for McLaren’s F1 team for two seasons, is arguably the most likely to replace Hamilton and he will be Bahrain-bound on Wednesday.
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The 28-year-old said after pre-season testing for Mercedes’ FE team in Valencia: “I don’t know what is going to happen [but] I know there is a chance for me to drive.
“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.
“To be honest I’ve not been able to think about it that much because I’ve been focusing on my Formula E test here.
“That’s been the priority of the day. I know I’m travelling out anyway to Bahrain tomorrow so let’s wait and see.”
Prising Russell from Williams for the weekend would presumably require Mercedes to secure an agreement with the Wantage-based outfit and they may be reluctant to lose their best-performing driver even if just for one race.
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