Mercedes and Williams have held discussions over George Russell replacing Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
World champion Hamilton will miss the penultimate round of the 2020 F1 season after testing positive for COVID-19.
Russell is a Mercedes protege who signed a multi-year deal with Williams in 2019 and will drive for the team again next year.
Williams blocked Mercedes from making a potential move to take Russell for 2021 after exercising a right to extend his deal to a third season.
However, Williams is understood by The Race to be open to the idea of letting Russell race for Mercedes in Bahrain – and Mercedes may need him again in Abu Dhabi next week depending on Hamilton’s isolation schedule and whether he can test negative in time for the season finale.
One consideration for Williams is it is last in the constructors’ championship but a good result in either of the final two races could lift it above Haas into ninth, and gain extra prize money.
Their drivers have finished 11th on four occasions this season and yet to score a point, but this weekend’s unusual race on the power-sensitive Bahrain Outer circuit could be an opportunity for an unexpected result.
Williams would therefore ideally like Russell, its lead driver, to take part but is aware of the opportunity available to him with Mercedes.
It is unclear what kind of deal will need to be struck to convince Williams to part with its driver but as a Mercedes customer team it has a good working relationship and wants to maintain that.
So it is unlikely that Williams would play hardball, particularly having stood in Russell’s way of a potential Mercedes drive for 2021.
Russell has extensive testing experience with Mercedes having completed six days in total with the team since 2017, most recently in Abu Dhabi last year.
He has not driven the Mercedes W11 but neither has Mercedes’ reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who is the other candidate to replace Hamilton.
It would be an enormous opportunity for Russell, who has yet to score a point in F1, to cement his reputation as a star of the future.
A decision is expected to be communicated on Wednesday.
If Russell is free to join Mercedes, Williams would have a range of options available to it – the easiest being to call up reserve driver Jack Aitken (who is in Bahrain preparing for the Formula 2 season finale), or request the use of Vandoorne in return for letting Russell go.