Jack Aitken was handed his grand prix weekend debut with Williams in 2020 having joined the team as a reserve driver earlier that year. He did so with the promise of a practice outing, which he received, but his sudden promotion in place of George Russell for the Sakhir Grand Prix came as a surprise.
He began his career in cars in the UK-based Dunlop Intersteps Challenge, a programme developed with the Racing Steps Foundation to help young drivers up the ladder, using similar cars to Formula BMW. Aitken came third in the championship and was able to take the step up to competing in Formula Renault 2.0 internationally the following year.
Aitken got good results in his debut year, coming second to Matthew Parry in the Northern European Cup but struggled in his sophomore campaign, finishing 2014 seventh. 2015, however, was a turning point for his career as he took three titles, winning every championship he competed in.
His Formula Renault results were strong enough that the manufacturer signed Aitken to their junior programme and entered Aitken to a busy schedule of racing in 2016, including his first GP3 campaign and several often successful guest appearances in Formula Renault 3.5, Spanish F3 and Euroformula Open.
Aitken placed a respectable fifth in his first year in GP3 with Arden but a move to ART in 2017 put him in direct competition with Russell for the title. Despite a few mechanical problems, Aitken achieved six podiums, including a win and finished the year in second place.
Both Russell and Aitken moved on to Formula 2 with ART but persistent mechanical problems blighted Aitken’s first year in the series, taking him out of title contention. A move to Campos for his two subsequent seasons in F2 saw him take fifth place in 2019 but once again be frustrated by 2020, 14th in the standings before the final round.
Aitken was destined not to take part in that race, however. Russell was promoted from his Williams set to Mercedes as a substitute for Lewis Hamilton. As the team’s reserve, Aitken was announced to make his F1 race debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix, on the Bahrain’s Outer circuit.
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