Lewis Hamilton has been cleared to return to Formula One this weekend in Abu Dhabi after returning “a number of negative COVID-19 tests,” according to an FIA statement issued today, Dec. 10. Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has confirmed Hamilton will take part in the final race of the season, and that Williams driver George Russell, who filled in for the seven-time world champion last weekend in Bahrain, will return to his team.
Mercedes says Lewis has tested negative twice following his 10-day quarantine: once in Bahrain and then again after landing in Abu Dhabi earlier today:
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.
Russell was set to drive again for Mercedes this weekend if Hamilton tested positive, and earlier today was attending press conferences alongside Valtteri Bottas. The 22-year-old, who scored his first F1 point and nearly his first win at the Sakhir circuit last weekend, told Sky Sports F1 he didn’t know how things would shake out but was entering the weekend prepared to drive:
We are obviously waiting on Lewis to return with a negative result. If he does, he’ll be in the car. So as it stands I’m just approaching this weekend as if I am driving a Mercedes. What happens tonight tomorrow, we’ll have to wait and see.
While everyone’s relieved to see Hamilton’s recovered and safely returning to the grid, this development will no doubt be disappointing for Russell, who had the promise of victory snatched from his clutches not once but twice in his only F1 race yet driving for Mercedes. An uncharacteristically mismanaged double-stacked pit stop saw Mercedes’ crew accidentally putting two of Bottas’ tires on Russell’s car, breaking a rule that forbids teams from mixing each car’s supply of rubber. Before the stop, Russell was leading the race.
Russell was forced to pit again so the team could correct the error, though Mercedes was fined 20,000 euros following the race anyway. He made his way all the way back up to second place when one of his tires picked up a puncture, necessitating yet another stop, and he ultimately finished ninth.
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff described the incident as “a colossal fuck up” live on TV while being interviewed by Sky Sports F1, and paraphrased his comments consoling Russell after the race:
You’re in your first race in a Mercedes and you should have won it, actually, for driving a monumental race, and there’s not a lot you can say. And this is where we are, but it’s not going to be his last attempt to win a race. It’s just the beginning of a fairytale that didn’t work out today, and I would say a new star is born.
As a member of Mercedes’ young driver program, Russell may very well get the opportunity to prove himself in a Silver Arrows chassis again. Here’s hoping that happens sooner rather than later.