KEY POINTS

  • Lewis Hamilton has won the driver's title seven times
  • George Russell is Mercedes' junior driver
  • Russell raced for Mercedes in 2020 after Hamilton had tested positive for COVID-19

Lewis Hamilton reportedly could be replaced by George Russell at Mercedes ahead of the 2021 season of Formula One (F1).

There is a "real chance" that Williams’ highly-rated F1 driver Russell, who is also a Mercedes junior driver, could be signed up instead of Hamilton, Formula 1 News has been informed from their source inside the F1 paddock. However, International Business Times was not able to verify it independently.

Hamilton, who equaled Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven driver’s titles last season, is currently without a contract, and talks over an extension with Mercedes are underway. However, the Brit driver’s requests for a multi-year extension and a pay rise on his previous contract are believed to have delayed proceedings. In fact, Hamilton’s Mercedes seat is the only one on the grid yet to be assigned for 2021.

During the 2020 edition of F1, Mercedes got a chance to test out their junior driver Russell. The 22-year-old Williams driver had replaced Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after the 36-year-old world champion had contracted the COVID-19. Russell was impressive through the weekend. He overtook his Mercedes teammate and experienced Valtteri Bottas at the first corner to take the lead before settling into a pace ahead of the remaining cars.

Had Mercedes not produced a pit-stop error under a later-race Safety Car, which was followed with a slow puncture in the closing laps that needed an extra stop, Russell could have tasted his maiden Grand Prix victory.

When asked about the progression of Hamilton’s contract talks last month, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had said, "We are not worried about eventually getting it done. We are not putting a special date to it because we don’t want to be under pressure. Sooner or later it needs to be done and at the latest before we go testing [ahead of the 2021 season]."

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won his seventh world title last year Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won his seventh world title last year Photo: POOL / HAMAD I MOHAMMED

Instead of the Australian Grand Prix, the upcoming season of F1 is scheduled to kickstart in Bahrain. The Melbourne race has been pushed to November this year.