George Russell replaces Lewis Hamilton for Sakhir GP

Russell replace Hamilton Sakhir
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George Russell replaces Lewis Hamilton in the No. 44 Mercedes for the Sakhir Grand Prix after the seven-time champion tested positive for novel coronavirus COVID-19 earlier this week. Russell moves over from the No. 63 Williams Racing team where he finished 12th in last week’s Bahrain GP.

“Very few people are lucky enough to drive for an F1 team each year,” Russell said in a tweet. “I’m about to get the chance to drive for two. Unbelievably grateful to Williams Racing and Mercedes AMG F1 for this opportunity.”

Russell has made 36 career starts in Formula 1 with five lead lap finishes to his credit. He is yet to score a point in the series, but came close twice with 11th-place finishes last year in the German GP and earlier this season in the Tuscan GP.

“First and foremost, I wish to thank our loyal partners at Williams for their collaboration and open-mindedness in making it possible for George to race for Mercedes this weekend,” said team principal Toto Wolff in a release. “The conversations with the team at Williams were positive and pragmatic, and those were the key factors in reaching an agreement.

“It will not be a straightforward task for George to make the transition from the Williams to the W11, but he is race-ready and has detailed understanding of the 2020 tires and how they perform on this generation of cars. George has shown impressive form this year with Williams, playing an instrumental role in their climb up the grid, and I am optimistic that he will deliver a strong performance alongside Valtteri [Bottas], who will be a demanding reference for him.”

His replacement of Hamilton for the Sakhir GP could help shape Russell’s career.

The move, albeit a short term one, gives Russell a chance to contend at the sports’ highest level. This is not only his best opportunity to score his first career F1 point, but he will race for the team that won the last five consecutive GPs and the organization that won the last seven.

And the playing field will be leveled somewhat for Russell. The Sakhir GP will be run on the outer circuit, which is a configuration that none of the other competitors have raced.

Williams’ release of Russell for this race, and potentially the Abu Dhabi GP if Hamilton does not have a negative COVID test in time, comes with consequences for that organization. Williams currently trails Haas F1 by three points for ninth in the constructors’ championship. Last week Haas driver Sergio Perez came within a few laps of finishing on the podium before suffering a catastrophic engine failure. But the organization will also have a relief driver in one of their cars as Pietro Fittipaldi replaces Romain Grosjean after his horrific accident on the opening lap of the in the Bahrain GP.

Russell’s replacement of Hamilton for the Sakhir GP created a cascade. Jack Aitken will replace Russell at Williams.

Aitkin has scored two podiums in F2 along with eight other points’ paying finishes.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to make my debut with Williams this coming weekend,” said Aitken in a press release. “I am extremely happy for George to have his chance too! I really mean it when I say I’ve felt very much at home here since I joined Williams earlier this year, so to get my chance to help the team try to achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least.

“I’ll be doing all I can to prepare in the coming days, but truthfully, I feel like I have been ready since Melbourne. I also want to wish Lewis well in his recovery, and good luck to George getting the chance to drive the Mercedes this weekend.”

Ralph Boschung will replace Aitkin in his F2 ride.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.