Vandoorne: Sakhir GP snub 'hurts' but I respect Mercedes decision

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Stoffel Vandoorne admits being overlooked by Mercedes for this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix "hurts".

As reserve driver, the Belgian was considered the obvious choice when it was revealed Lewis Hamilton would not be able to race following a positive Covid-19 test on Monday.

Indeed, after completing Formula E testing in Valencia, Vandoorne, who raced for McLaren in 2017/18, flew directly to Bahrain as was previously planned.

However, on Wednesday, it was announced George Russell would stand-in at Mercedes, while F2 driver Jack Aitken will drive at Williams.

“I want to wish Lewis Hamilton a speedy recovery and hopefully he’ll be back in the car ASAP,” Vandoorne wrote on Instagram on Thursday. “Nobody can really replace him!

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“Obviously, I’m disappointed not to get the chance to drive for Mercedes this weekend.

“After having spent the year travelling to all F1 races and dedicating so much time, physical training, commitment to this programme…it hurts!

“On the other hand, I respect the choice of putting George Russell in the car. He has been one of the standout drivers and he fully deserves this opportunity," Stoffel added.

“It’s moments like these that make my drive even bigger and I can assure you I’m going to continue giving 100%!

“Thank you so much, everyone, for all your supportive messages! It’s been great to see.”

Vandoorne was briefly linked to the seat at Williams after it became clear Russell would go to Mercedes.

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However, Aitken revealed he initiated contact with the Grove-based team about the situation.

“When I first saw the news about Hamilton I kind of dismissed it because I knew Stoffel’s position with the team and that George is a Williams driver,” said the British-Korean driver.

“Then as things started to unfold it became clear there was a possibility. Such was my impatience that I actually contacted the team and asked what was going on.

“That was on Tuesday afternoon and they said ‘we’re assessing the situation, we’ll get back to you, just sit tight’. So I sat tight for several hours thinking ‘come on’.

“Eventually it stretched out overnight and on Wednesday morning confirmation came through and it was announced half an hour later or something, so it all happened quite quickly.”

Aitken does have experience in this year's Williams, having driven in FP1 at the second race in Austria, and hopes he can immediately step up to the challenge of replacing Russell.

“It’s a huge opportunity, but equally one for which I’ve been waiting for quite a long time and I feel quite ready for,” he said.

“I’m well up to speed with the car and all the latest updates and as a driver I feel more than capable of stepping in, as I did in Austria.

“I don’t really have any doubts on that side and I’m just here to execute what I know I can. I’m quite confident I can come in and do a really good job. I want to get the most out of it because I don’t know when the one next one will be.”