Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft believes George Russell has what it takes to win the Sakhir Grand Prix for Mercedes in a wild week for the young British driver.
Russell – who usually races for Williams – has been called upon to replace Lewis Hamilton in Mercedes’ winning machine after the seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
The race will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend and while Crofty is reluctant to put too much pressure on Russell’s young shoulders, he thinks he is fully capable of landing a podium place or better on his golden opportunity to impress the Mercedes hierarchy.
- Watch the Sakhir Grand Prix live
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Crofty said: “What a promotion for George Russell! A man who has been driving superbly well on a Saturday and not getting the best of it on a Sunday.
“He has an amazing chance to show just how good he is. George just banged in a fast lap, confidence-boosting, didn’t make any mistakes, top of the time sheets, what more do you want? You want to carry it on into qualifying and then to the race.
“George could well be on the podium for the first time in F1. What an amazing achievement that would be.
When pushed as to whether Russell could go all the way and secure a race win, Crofty refused to rule it out: “Of course he could, he’s in the fastest car of all time and he has the talent to be able to race a very talented teammate and an advantage on pace over the Red Bulls.
“But let’s not get too carried away and put too much pressure on him, although I’m really upset I missed out on any opportunity to get an early bet on him this week.
“Let’s not put too much pressure on George with the caveat that of course he could win because he is in the best car and he is a very talented driver.
“You don’t win the GP3 title, the F2 title in successive years without being a talented driver. The only other man to do that is Charles Leclerc, we’ve talked a lot about how good he is over the years.
“This is a super opportunity for Russell. Yes, he’s stepping into a new team but he’s work with Mercedes before, it’s a car he’s half familiar with and he’ll have to learn the other half very quickly over the practice sessions, but he couldn’t have wished for a better FP1 session than the one he’s just had.”
Speaking about the track, Crofty is excited to see how drivers, including Russell, tackle the short circuit and new layout.
“It’s basic, but the second second is technically very challenging, it’s very bumpy, there’s going to be a lot of lapped cars by the end of this one, that could severely hamper some of the leading contenders if they come across back-markers.
“Qualifying, how they sort qualifying I really don’t know, they’re not going to get the gaps they want out there.
“It’s something different, this configuration has never been raced on before, so let’s see. I can’t wait. 87 laps.”
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