The weekend had all the makings of a fairy tale for George Russell, who was plucked out from the back of the F1 grid to stand-in at Mercedes for world champion Lewis Hamilton, who tested positive for COVID-19. In yesterday's Sakhir Grand Prix, Russell left his Williams seat to drive Hamilton's championship winning car. He looked all set for victory until an agonising series of misfortunes handed Sergio Perez his maiden victory instead.

22-year-old Russell suddenly found himself in the best car on the grid, and he did not disappoint from the moment he went out on track. While racing fans may say that anyone can do well in Hamilton's car, it's not as easy as it seems. First, despite being fitted with his own seat, Hamilton's cockpit is still significantly small for Russell, who is five inches taller. According to the BBC, he also needed to wear boots that were one size too small in order to operate the pedals in the Mercedes.

Anyone who watched the race would have also noticed how different Hamilton's steering wheel is compared to the one Russell uses at Williams. Throughout the race, he was still being guided by his engineers on the controls, not to mention that the paddles were much smaller than what he's used to.

Despite these challenges, Russell qualified second on the grid, just behind fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. More importantly, Russell was able to make a brilliant start to lead from the first corner.

Russell led the pack as a safety car was deployed after the opening lap incident that took out Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who started from third and fourth on the grid. Sergio Perez also figured in the clash, which sent him back to 18th place.

After the initial round of pit stops, Russell was in full control and looked like he was on his way to cruise to an easy victory. However, a spin by the man who replaced him at Williams, Jack Aitken, sent the safety car out once again.

Most of the grid rushed to change tyres under the safety car, but a radio malfunction led to a bizarre mix-up in the Mercedes garage. The crew ended up putting Bottas' front tyres on Russell's car, which left them no choice but to send Bottas out on track in the same old tyres he came in with.

That meant that Russell had to give up the lead to correct the mistake and change his tyres again. The extra stop sent him out to fifth place, just behind Bottas who suffered a massive delay and was still on old tyres.

At the restart, all was not lost as Russell blazed through the field very quickly. He passed everyone save for Racing Point's Sergio Perez, but was quickly catching the lead car before he suffered a slow puncture.

Another stop sent Russell to the back of the grid, but he was again able to blaze past several cars before time ran out. In the end, he managed to finish in 9th place behind his teammate. In the process, he managed to score his first three points in Formula One.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff only had a positive outlook after the bizarre race. "He has all the potential and all the ingredients that a future star needs," Wolff said about Russell.

Russell was "gutted" but knows that he has a lot to be proud of. "Halfway into the race, I had an eight-second lead over Valtteri and I thought, 'this is too good to be true.' And it turned out it was too good to be true," he said.

Meanwhile, the mishap at Mercedes handed the win to Perez, whose maiden victory means so much more considering his future. With just one more race left in the season, Perez still does not have a confirmed drive for 2021. Racing Point has signed Sebastian Vettel to take his place, leaving him with very few options to stay in F1 next season.

George Russell
Man for Mercedes? Williams' driver George Russell AFP / William WEST