Jack Aitken says he is raring to get another opportunity to impress Williams at this weekend’s Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but he remains in the dark about whether he will race or not.

Aitken was handed an unexpected F1 debut with Williams at the Sakhir Grand Prix, replacing team regular George Russell, who was promoted to Mercedes as stand-in for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19.

Mercedes is waiting to find out whether Hamilton has recovered from coronavirus and is able to participate this weekend, which would result in a late reshuffling of seats with Russell returning to his usual place at Williams.

That leaves Aitken, who conducted media duties for Williams in the pre-race press conference in Abu Dhabi, facing an anxious wait to find out whether he will get a second chance to contest a grand prix weekend.

A final decision could come as late as Friday, but Aitken said he is approaching the weekend as if he were racing as normal to ensure he is ready if needed.

“I’m just approaching it like a normal weekend,” Aitken told Crash.net. “If anything if it’s a little bit easier because I’ve got the experience of last weekend behind me.

“I’m just going to prepare as I would if I was racing, there’s no downside to doing that and it’s obviously the safe option.

“If I get told tomorrow I’m not in the car then that’s just one of those things and I would have been glad to have made the most of my opportunity last weekend, but I am pretty desperate to have another go.”

Aitken left the Renault junior programme to join Williams ahead of the season and take on the position of reserve driver.

The 25-year-old insisted he felt ready for his debut F1 weekend having been preparing himself for the possibility of that scenario occurring since the start of the year.

“I’d been waiting pretty much all year for that sort of chance to come along,” Aitken explained.

“You’ve been preparing for a long time so I think that’s why it helped getting up to speed quickly.

“It was good that I got a taste of the car earlier in the year, but there was also a lot of things I hadn’t done that form part of an F1 race weekend. Saturday with the qualifying procedures and Sunday as well, were quite new to me.

“There are a few quirks with the car as well, F1 cars are so complex these days and there are a lot of systems working in the background which ultimately help you out a lot of the time but it does mean that some of the things that traditionally as a driver you might take for granted, they just don’t work the same way.

“Understanding those quirks compared to the F2 car and getting up to speed in time for qualifying and the race was quite a challenge. Luckily, it went pretty well and I think the pace that we found from Friday to Saturday was a very decent step and after a bit of time to digest, I’m pretty happy with the weekend.

“Coming into this weekend I already have a lot more confidence in knowing how to utilise the tools and manipulate the car to get what I want,” he added.

Aitken came within a tenth of a second of out-qualifying teammate Nicholas Latifi in qualifying and finished 16th in the race, beating fellow F1 debutant Pietro Fittipaldi despite suffering a late spin. He felt his performance across the weekend had impressed Williams.

“They are happy that I was able to come in and there wasn’t too much of a learning process,” Aitken said.

“It wasn’t like we got to Sunday and were still trying to find half a second or whatever. For them I filled the role of reserve pretty well, I think and stepped in with minimal fuss and got on with the job.

“Pace-wise in qualifying was really decent, I just messed up the last run a little bit but was very competitive ahead of an Alfa and a Haas and to be that close to Nicholas after he’s done the whole season, I was pretty happy and the engineers I worked with were too.”

 

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