Williams has praised the job that Jack Aitken has done in stepping up to Formula 1 in a “seamless” manner at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.
The 25-year-old Williams reserve driver was drafted in by the team as replacement for George Russell, who has been loaned out to Mercedes to stand in for the COVID-positive Lewis Hamilton.
Having quickly got up to speed in Sakhir Grand Prix practice, his first outing in the Williams since FP1 at the Styrian Grand Prix, Aitken was faster than team-mate Nicholas Latifi in the first two runs in qualifying before being pipped by less than one tenth of a second on their last effort.
The pair will start 17th and 18th, having both outqualified the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen and Haas debutante Pietro Fittipaldi, who was already destined to start last due to two 10-place grid penalties for changing power unit components.
Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson said he has seen enough from Aitken already to be impressed by his efforts to integrate himself so quickly.
“Jack’s done a good job all weekend,” said Robson.
“We had him in the car [for free practice] in Austria, for the second race, so we knew he was comfortable and fitted, and there were no basic issues.
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“All his kit was out here, because we were going to run him at the young driver’s test [in Abu Dhabi], so it was actually all pretty seamless to be honest once we had it all confirmed.
“It was quick check with him and he spent a couple of days to embed himself with George’s race engineering team.
“Otherwise, seamless and good. A good productive couple of days I think, he did very well.”
Robson added that Latifi had been close to making it through to Q2, missing the cut by 0.176s due to a mistake at the final corner.
“I think Nicholas was probably a little bit frustrated with himself because actually his final lap there was really, really good,” he explained.
“He made a mistake in the last corner, and was actually pretty close. He could have got into Q2, I think.
“I’m sure he would have liked to beat him [Aitken] more comprehensively I guess, as that’s what racing drivers are like, but it’s been fairly close all weekend.
“Jack’s had a bit of a tough season in F2, but we knew from Austria and from his career record before that he’s definitely no mug.
“So I think it’s credit to Jack he’s come in and done a very good job.”
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