Lewis Hamilton: Formula One champion tests positive for coronavirus
Lewis Hamilton feels "devastated" and "gutted" to miss the first GP of his career after returning positive Covid-19 result; Hamilton displaying mild symptoms and now in 10-day isolation; Vandoorne, Russell, Hulkenberg: Who will stand in at Mercedes in Bahrain?
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 01/12/20 6:36pm
Lewis Hamilton will miss this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for coronavirus.
The Mercedes driver returned three negative tests last week but began displaying mild symptoms on Monday, and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to his arrival last week in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
Hamilton returned a positive result in a further test, confirmed in a later retest. Mercedes say he is showing mild symptoms but is "otherwise fit and well" and is now self-isolating in line with guidelines.
Now in a period of 10 days isolation, Hamilton posted a message on Twitter saying he was "devastated" to miss the first race of his F1 career. He said he was following protocols and urged others to stay safe.
Mercedes say they will announce Hamilton's temporary replacement "in due course". Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez are the team's reserve drivers, but it is not certain that F1's world champions will turn to either.
Hamilton's period of isolation ends next Thursday. It remains to be confirmed whether he will return for next week's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
- The Martin Brundle column: Romain Grosjean's Great Escape
- Reflecting on Romain Grosjean's accident
- Grosjean's wife praises 'superhero' husband
- Sky F1's live Sakhir GP TV schedule
This weekend will be the first time Hamilton has been absent from a Grand Prix since his F1 career began in 2007, ending a record run of 265 consecutive starts.
He already wrapped up his record-equalling seventh world championship three weeks ago in Turkey. Hamilton is the third F1 driver to contract Covid-19 this season after Racing Point's Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.
In an earlier statement on Tuesday, Mercedes said: "The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team regrets to announce that Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be unable to take part in this weekend's Sakhir GP.
"Lewis was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit as part of the standard race weekend testing programme.
"However, he woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive. Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.
"Lewis is now isolating in accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain. Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery."
F1 say all Hamilton's contacts have been declared and the correct procedures have been followed, meaning there is "no wider impact" on this weekend's second event in Bahrain.
Two individuals in Hamilton's 'sub-bubble' are also self-isolating as a result, it is understood.
Who will replace Hamilton?
As previously planned, Vandoorne is flying from Formula E testing in Valencia to Bahrain to be with Mercedes at the Sakhir event this weekend.
On Tuesday, Vandoorne posted a picture of him limbering up with the cheeky message: "Just stretching, what's going on?!"
But Mercedes could have options for a stand-in for Hamilton beyond the 28-year-old Belgian, who last raced in F1 with McLaren two years ago.
Britain's George Russell is effectively on a long-term loan from Mercedes to Williams, but the Grove team would be understandably reluctant to lose their lead driver for the race weekend.
I do wonder if this is a great chance for Mercedes to have a look at George in a straight battle against Valtteri with an eye on 2022.... Will be great to watch!— Karun Chandhok (@karunchandhok) December 1, 2020
Nico Hulkenberg is a free agent and impressively stood in for Perez and Stroll at Racing Point when they missed races earlier in the season.
Whoever gets the seat in the W11 next to Valtteri Bottas will suddenly have an unexpected, and possibly one-off, drive in F1's dominant car - and the one which will again be favourite for victory in Sunday's Sakhir GP, which takes place on a different layout to last week's first Bahrain race.
Sunday's race - which takes place on the venue's shorter but fast 'Outer' layout for the first time - begins at 5.10pm on Sunday live on Sky Sports F1.
Other drivers have posted cheeky 'come and get me' posts for Mercedes - both current and former drivers:
With the 2020 world title already confirmed, Hamilton leads his teammate Valtteri Bottas by 131 points in the drivers standings after victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend, a race overshadowed by Romain Grosjean's terrifying accident.
The Englishman had also been on course to tie Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel's all-time record of 13 wins in a season, but his absence from Bahrain's second race ends that prospect for 2020.