Lewis Hamilton returns for final grand prix of season after Covid all-clear

Lewis Hamilton returns for final grand prix of season after Covid all-clear

Lewis Hamilton will race in the Formula One season finale at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The world champion missed the last round in Bahrain having contracted Covid-19. He has since tested negative for the virus and his Mercedes team have confirmed he has entered Abu Dhabi and is ready to take part in the full race weekend.

Hamilton tested positive for coronavirus on 30 November and has been in isolation in Bahrain since then. The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has said the team would do everything possible to put him in the car and Hamilton has said he felt great but the decision remained in the balance, dependent on a negative test.

The Williams driver George Russell, who stood in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix, had been ready to do so again this weekend. He took part in the Mercedes press conference on Thursday and had been preparing with the team. However, on Thursday evening Mercedes announced Hamilton had tested negative and would once more take to the wheel with his 10-day isolation period having ended.

It appears the team were waiting on the final confirmation required from a further negative test upon Hamilton’s arrival in Abu Dhabi. “We are still waiting to get Lewis’s results back, so I am unsure who I will be racing for,” noted Russell as late as Thursday afternoon.

The Mercedes statement read: “Lewis tested negative for Covid-19 on Wednesday prior to completion of his self-isolation period in Bahrain. This enabled him to travel to Abu Dhabi on Thursday afternoon, and he tested negative on arrival. Lewis has therefore completed the protocols required by the FIA for his entry to the paddock tomorrow and will be able to take part in the race weekend.”

The team confirmed that Russell would therefore return to drive for Williams this weekend.

Hamilton has already sealed his seventh F1 title this season but had been devastated to miss a race – the first of his F1 career. He had completed 265 consecutive starts since his debut in 2007 and this season had been rigorous in his efforts to minimise his risk of contracting the virus. While in isolation he said it had been one of the hardest weeks he had endured but that his focus was on trying to ensure he recovered in time for Abu Dhabi.

The Haas team principal, Gunther Steiner, insisted in Abu Dhabi that his team were taking “very seriously” the incident in which their driver for next season, Nikita Mazepin, posted a video where he appeared to inappropriately touch a woman in the back seat of a car. Haas already posted a statement describing it as “abhorrent” and on Thursday morning the FIA and F1 issued a joint statement reiterating that: “The ethical principles and diverse and inclusive culture of our sport are of the utmost importance to the FIA and Formula One.”

Steiner said: “We take it very seriously, as you saw [in the statement]. I just want to reinforce that, that we will deal with it. I’m not going into detail on what we’ll do and how we’ll do it, but we take it seriously, and we will work to sort this out.”