World champion Lewis Hamilton was Thursday given the green light to return to racing at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix after recovering from coronavirus. Hamilton, 35, missed last Sunday’s Sakhir GP but the FIA and Mercedes both confirmed that he had passed a number of negative Covid-19 tests after completing a 10-day quarantine period in Bahrain. George Russell, who replaced Hamilton last week and came agonisingly close to a shock victory, will return to his Williams team.
“The FIA, Formula 1 and Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team can today confirm that Lewis Hamilton has returned a number of negative COVID-19 tests,” said a team statement.
“He has completed his ten day quarantine in Bahrain and was free to leave the country according to the Bahraini health authority regulations.
“Lewis has now arrived in Abu Dhabi following confirmation from the authorities that he could do so and after quarantining has now received a further negative test result.”
The team added: “Lewis, having now tested negative in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi will be granted access to the paddock.”
Hamilton’s absence from the Sakhir Grand Prix was the first of his F1 career and came after 265 consecutive races since he made his debut at the 2007 Australian Grand Prix.
This season he has secured a record-equalling seventh drivers title – drawing level with Michael Schumacher – and passed the German’s records for race wins.
Hamilton has won a record 95.
He also holds records for most pole positions (98) and most podiums (164), among others, and is widely-held to be the most successful Formula One driver of all time.
“I’m a Williams driver”
His absence last weekend at the Sakhir Grand Prix came as the team produced one of its most erratic and error-strewn performances including a major pit-stop bungle that affected both drivers results.
Russell, who led for 62 laps, had to pit twice after being given a set of mixed tyres, including tyres designated for team-mate Valtteri Bottas, before a late puncture.
Bottas endured a prolonged pit-stop in which, on discovery of their errors with Russell, the team re-fitted the set of tyres that had been removed in order for him to rejoin the race.
Hamilton’s return may bring a semblance of normal order back and with it his quiet authority in leading the drivers in the final anti-racism gesture of the season ahead of Sunday’s race.
He may also use his return to highlight human rights issues.
Russell, 22, was left “gutted” after finishing ninth last Sunday, having appeared to be set for victory before the bungled pit stop and a late slow puncture gave Racing Point’s Sergio Perez a maiden win.
Despite widespread speculation that he may even partner Hamilton at Mercedes next season, Russell said he would remain with Williams in 2021.
To try and clarify his personal situation, Russell added: “Ultimately, I have a contract and I’m a Williams driver for 2021, but my management is Mercedes.
“I signed a deal with Mercedes back in 2016 and they are my managers. They invested in me, they put faith in me and that means a huge amount.
“I am committed to Mercedes so I’m happy and confident with my position under their guidance.”
He added that his post-race suggestion last Sunday that he hoped he had given Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff a selection dilemma for next year was not a serious comment.
“It was just a throwaway remark in the heat of the moment,” he said.
“Obviously emotions were high and what have you. I have a contract and am a Williams driver for 2021.”
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