Jack Aitken said Williams remain one of the possible options open to him for 2021 with talks between both parties ongoing.
The British-Korean racer made his Formula 1 debut in 2020 at the Sakhir Grand Prix, taking George Russell’s place at Williams after he got the opportunity to drive for Mercedes following Sir Lewis Hamilton’s positive COVID-19 test.
As well as serving as a reserve driver and member of the Williams driver programme, Aitken competed in Formula 2 for the third successive season, finishing the 2020 campaign in P14 with two podiums to his name.
Due to the finances involved Aitken doesn’t expect to return to Formula 2 and he is very much open to branching out and competing in series outside of the Formula 1 ladder, though talks with the Williams Formula 1 team also remain ongoing.
“Well, first of all, nothing has been decided about what I’m going to be this year. We’re quite deep into discussions on a few different fronts,” he told the South China Morning Post.
“I want to keep my mind open because I’ve driven single-seaters and come up with Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1 for a long time. There are other motorsport options available. Whether that’s in electric series, like Formula E, or going into endurance and going to the big races, like the Le Mans 24 Hours. I want to keep my mind open to possibly expand into those areas.
“I have a great relationship with Williams and certainly we’re still in discussions there. I don’t think I’ll be racing Formula 2 next season because of the budget requirements. It’s just too difficult for us; we don’t have the resource to be able to do that endlessly. But hopefully that means I’ll get to do something new and exciting this year.”
Aitken admitted that racing through the global pandemic in 2020 was a challenging experience, and said there was a lot of “paranoia” around possibly contracting COVID-19.
“It has been quite different, obviously, with the regular testing and almost paranoia of avoiding the virus because – not too much from a safety point of view – but accepting that you can have cases where it can be quite debilitating,” he explained.
“Most of the time if you’re a young, fit athlete you’ll be OK if you get Covid-19. But it’s a question of your career – can you afford to miss two or three races? The answer is really no. So you become overly cautious, especially being in public.”
2020, a year of (let’s be honest) mostly lows, but luckily a few highs too. From the craziness of Melbourne through to Abu Dhabi, I thought rather than bust out the pro pictures, I’d see what I had from my humble iPhone! This year I had the absolute pleasure of working with… pic.twitter.com/YgKCsbofRJ
— Jack Aitken – 한세용 (@JaitkenRacer) December 31, 2020
Ironically though it was the virus which opened the door for Aitken’s Formula 1 opportunity.
“The role is just to be ready. It’s quite an odd situation because I’d raced in Formula 2 last year which kept me busy, but there are still times where F2 don’t race because it’s a shorter camp than F1,” he said referring to the duties he held as a Williams reserve driver.
“I’m left looking at F1 from the sidelines and it’s a weird sensation of having to be ready for that 0.01 per cent chance that you have to be called in.
“Obviously this [past] year the chances increased, and I got the call just a couple of days before the weekend in Bahrain saying there was an issue with [Lewis] Hamilton and the knock-on effect meant I would be racing.
“Suddenly you have to dip into a completely different mindset of remembering all the simulator training you’ve been doing, training for this moment, and really engaging in the idea of racing that weekend.
“It was just a whirlwind. It kept me very busy leading up to the weekend which almost made it easier. Then you arrive at the track and it’s time to get going.”