Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Hamilton faces obstacles to Abu Dhabi return even if he tests negative for Covid

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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One week on from his positive test for Covid-19, Lewis Hamilton is waiting to discover whether he will test negative for the virus in time to return to racing at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

The world champion missed the Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for the virus last Monday. George Russell took his place, but Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has confirmed Hamilton will return to his car this weekend if he tests negative in time.

“If Lewis recovers – and he’s getting better every day – and he’s being considered Covid-free, negative, then he will be in the car,” said Wolff yesterday.

In order to be allowed to race drivers must first participate in at least one of the four pre-race sessions – three practice sessions plus ‘qualifying practice’. Nico Hulkenberg substituted for Lance Stroll at the Eifel Grand Prix having only taken part in qualifying prior to the race.

That situation could be repeated for Hamilton this weekend, depending on whether he tests negative for Covid-19 and how late the result is determined.

“As long as the driver participates in a practice session or qualifying, they’re permitted to race,” FIA F1 race director Michael Masi confirmed. “So technically, here and now, a driver only has to fulfil one of those criteria.

“They couldn’t just turn up and race as their only thing, they would have to do one of the practice sessions, be it free practice or qualifying practice beforehand.”

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The latest Hamilton could return to his car and be able to take part in the race is therefore 5pm on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, the starting time for qualifying.

Hamilton has been in isolation since his positive test. If he is able to test negative, Hamilton will have to travel to Abu Dhabi while observing the pandemic restrictions governing Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. This presents further obstacles.

“The main part with all of this has always been complying with the respective governments’ laws and regulations,” said Masi. “So it’s very much a decision for a the Bahraini health authorities to determine if Lewis is fit and complies with their regulations and then further for the Abu Dhabi authorities to determine their criteria. So it’s effectively two government entities that determine entry criteria.”

On arrival in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton will have to complete a 24-hour period of isolation after landing, before he can enter the paddock.

“If he meets the entry criterias of the respective governments and then further complies with the testing protocol from an FIA perspective – to test negative prior to entering the paddock – then there’s no problems from our perspective,” Masi added.

Wolff said Russell will drive for the team again if Hamilton is not able to return to race for them. If Hamilton does return mid-weekend, that could prompt a reshuffling of the seats which changed around in his absence, with Russell heading back to Williams in place of Jack Aitken.

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123 comments on “Hamilton faces obstacles to Abu Dhabi return even if he tests negative for Covid”

  1. I was wondering about Lewis health progress. Didn’t he said he got mild symptoms? What kind of symptoms? How is he now? Where did he got infected? Was he breached any protocols?

    1. Same here. He’s been silent this weekend hasn’t he? And regarding how he got infected, it’s funny how everyone in the media kept trying to find the cause of Perez’s positive but they respect Hamilton situation silently.

      1. Slightly different no? Perez travelled to Mexico, Hamilton was in Bahrain the whole time.

        1. So of even more interest.

        2. Bruno Verrari
          7th December 2020, 11:07

          No – he met his fsmily in Dubai!

          1. Woot. I never seen any news about that.

        3. They said it happened in UAE (when he was surrounded by people). That’s not Bahrain.

        4. Sky did a piece on how the season has managed to go ahead and Otmar revealed that they now believe Checo got covid from the private chef he employed so he could avoid exposure of being in restaurants.

      2. Part of that is down to the novelty factor – Perez was the first prominent person in the paddock to get infected and so that was quite a bit of a shock. Not so much right now (not that anyone should be letting their guard down).

        1. Indeed.
          And also back then there were few infections and most countries in Europe were relying on contact tracing. Now in the second/third wave contact tracing has so but stopped as it is almost impossible with the current amount of infections.

      3. Perez was tested positive on coronavirus, but he didn’t have COVID. Hamilton does have COVID. So very unlikely he will recover in less than 2 weeks, unless they fake tests. And after COVID it should be at least 3 negative results over a course of some time. So very unlikely to see him in Abu Dhabi.

        1. PCR COVID-19 (disease) testing is typically by checking for the SARS-CoV-2 (virus) in nasal/throat swabs. No difference there.

          Patients are typically no longer infectious 10 days after first symptoms (first 4 days most infectious).
          Best practice is 2 negative tests to declare a patient recovered. But most countries rely simply on the 10 (or 14) day time-span from onset of symptoms or positive test. I’m not sure if the F1bubble still requires 2 negative tests after a positive (used to be like that).

          No, PCR test do NOT have a 40% false negative rate!!

          1. Having tested positive on virus doesn’t mean having pneumonia. Most people having the virus without evolved pneumonia. I.e. asymptomatic patients. Typically relates to asymptomatic pentients.

            And yes, up to 40% of false negative in some scenarios, as heavily depends on quality of swabs.

      4. At least 3. It’s never done with 1 test, as 40% of negative results are false negative.

      5. John Ballantyne
        8th December 2020, 9:46

        I haven’t heard if he has sent a congratulatory message to George Russell, can someone remind him? He could do with an image lift.

    2. I’m pretty sure It was reported when the news came about that he had been in contact with (I think) a team member who had tested positive so Lewis then had to be tested an so on..

  2. Well, i do hope Hamilton recovers and gets well. Even though I would really like to see Russel get a chance to make up for the heartbreak on Sunday.

    Surely neither Bahrain nor Abu Dhabi would seriously consider blocking Hamilton from getting to Abu Dhabi on time (provided he does test negative first off course). But it does provide an extra complication to talk about and think about.

    1. Same thoughts. I hope lewis is well and recovers well too. But at the same time I really really want to see russell in the car. The guy deserves a win and I’d also want to see his progress. It was his first race in the merc and even if he has done practice runs in the car I’d like to see if he can improve and clear bottas. It would be pretty cruel if russell would not get his win and then has to go back to the williams to suffer yet another year.

      1. Same here.
        Recovered Lewis and Russell to have another go.

        Maybe Lewis can get the Williams seat to show what he can do in that car.

        1. That makes no sense. Why would he go to Williams? He has proven himself YOY.

    2. Coventry Climax
      7th December 2020, 18:23

      Actually, I would like to see someone else in that Merc, for the next race.
      Probably, then, Bottas will win and we get to see how exceptionally well George actually did.
      Hopefully that also shuts up the low IQ people that keep shouting that anyone can win in that car.
      But it’ll be either Lewis or George, I suppose, so one last try from my side: If the car really were the one and only reason, than anyone in a RB can finish second all the time?

      1. You won’t be satisfied, if they bring someone else and that person, wins, then what? Put another someone else to if the prior 2 were not just exceptionally talented?

    3. Agree. Hope Lewis recovers soon and stays healthy. Although.. as bizarre as it sounds.. it would be great for the sport if he were to miss the last race of the season and George had a second chance in that Mercedes this season.

      1. Bottas may not be comfortable with that scenario. Imagine the gossip if Russell outperforms Bottas this weekend!

  3. I can’t see Russell in the car on Friday just to be replaced by Lewis on Saturday. Also it would be harsh on George and Jack.

    1. @chrisgalaz That would be the worst possible situation. I don’t even know if you are allowed to move between teams during a race weekend, just imagine all the paperwork!

      If Lewis can’t get in the car until Saturday then Toto will have a decision. Notwithstanding the point i made above, would be unfair on Russell to do FP1/FP2 in one car and then race in another.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        7th December 2020, 11:18

        That’s a good point – anyone know what the regs say? I’d be surprised if you could swap teams… Otherwise Red Bull could give each driver 1 practice session in the Red Bull and then pick the fastest for quali!

        1. @petebaldwin I’m pretty sure Red Bull would have exploited this already if it was legal. I didn’t think of that.

          Even if the regs are silent on it, I can imagine RBR plus others asking the stewards for an opinion creating further uncertainty and risk of sporting punishments (MB won’t care about a financial penalty but grid drops and/or time penalties are a different matter).

      2. @chimaera2003 My understanding is that you can change what is on the entry list (which is set on Monday evening, so too early to know if COVID protocols will be passed) only if exceptional circumstances can be proven, and that changing team isn’t treated differently to the more straightforward “pick a driver who isn’t already assigned a team for the weekend” (assuming contracts allow it, which is clearly the case here). I’m not sure an anticipated mid-weekend changeover would count (so Mercedes and Williams couldn’t plan to have George in on Friday and Lewis on Saturday/Sunday). On the other hand, medical absences have typically been classed as “exceptional circumstances”. So if Lewis got an “inconsistent” test on Friday morning, George could substitute in that situation until Lewis got a negative test later.

        The punishment meted out (at least in theory) is that the swap is not approved and someone else has to be selected as the replacement driver.

    2. Surely Mercedes are sitting pretty no matter who drives their car? Russell proved this beyond any dispute. The driver’s name is but a formality, and so is the race outcome. Unless the Mercedes garage fall victim to another attack of desperate un-professionalism.

    3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      7th December 2020, 16:30

      @chrisgalaz In that scenario, Vandoorne would do the set up work on Lewis’s car on Friday with Lewis jumping in for P3 on Saturday. George would have a full weekend at Williams. It’s also likely Abu Dhabi would make a travel exception for Lewis. I really wish George can get a second race but its looking more unlikely now.

  4. I really hope Russell is in the Mercedes again next weekend. If it is Hamilton he will again such the competition out of the race and run away at the front. If it is Russel it gives us excitement and him a consolation for the cruel fate on Sunday. He really was cheated of a win twice in one race but still battled on.

    All the great drivers have the same mantra: never give up, you never know what will happen.

  5. A good opportunity to use Will Smith :D

    1. LMAOOOO this is the only way Ferrari and Red Bull can beat Mercedes. However, they still need to go through Bottas whahahah

  6. Sorry to be blunt…but does anyone actually want him back for AD?

    1. He is WDC. Nothing to win for now.
      Russell did a great job.
      So actually : No

      Let him close this season resting. He deserves it ( and so does Russell)

    2. Yes, I do.

    3. Yes they do. You might not but some people do. 1) because it will mean Lewis is well 2) because he is the reigning WDC. The reigning wdc should always be on the grid if possible.
      As a Brit I’m a little torn personally but George will get his chance regardless of if he drives a Merc at Abu Dahbi. A Lewis win is always an enjoyable winsome want to see him back before the long break.

      1. yes i want to see him back racing in AD

    4. @joshgeake Yes. I want Lewis to be well, happy and racing as usual. I enjoyed George’s cameo, but am willing to be patient and let him next race for Mercedes after he’s finished his Williams contract.

    5. That’s interesting. To not want the WDC entered in the race. In any other sport why would anyone not want the best player involved? Interesting and weird! I want to see him back. I love watching Horner cringe.

  7. I really think switching bottas and russell would be actually a good solution for both williams and mercedes. Merc gets their upcoming talent into their top team after the said driver has now proven he can do it. For williams it is a win situation as well. After all williams is going to lose russell at the end of next year no matter what. And when russell leaves then there also goes the cheap mercedes engine deal. Williams is looking at big performance drop when they have to replace russell with a rookie and at the same time their engine costs are getting higher at the dawn of the new tech regulation era.

    By allowing a switch of bottas and russell williams could keep their engine deal in place maybe a year longer at least. Or how long they can negotiate it. Bottas is also a decent driver and while not the caliber of hamilton or russell he is still as likely to score points in the williams when the situtation arises (read: cars ahead don’t finish). There are quite a few drivers on the grid that are not as good as bottas. Bottas is also likely to stay at williams for a long time which gives williams a good driver for long time. And bottas knows the team.

    And of course it works out for mercedes too. They get their young talent into their top team where they can get the best years out of russell if they choose to keep him. They’ll get him relatively cheaply too because russell would surely trade in his mother too just to drive their car instead of the pile of trash that has the williams stickers on it.

    Only issue (but a huge one) here is bottas’ contract. Chances are bottas does not need to agree to move the williams. If bottas can not be forced to go to williams then williams won’t release russell either. Which means it is a deadlock situation and nothing changes.

    I’m 100% sure the top wigs are merc are going though bottas’ contract with electron microscope to see if there is any way to make the trade happen (yay silly season!). I know I would. And if I was williams I’d be very glad to have to spend less money on engines.

    1. Steve Mitchell
      7th December 2020, 11:48

      One thing has been proven over the last few years, that “sports contracts” are not worth the paper they are written on. There are always clauses written in somewhere so that either party can weasel out of it.

      Bottas will of course dig in all his claws to stay at Merc for 1 more year…..but I hope so much to see Lewis and George racing side by side in identical cars next year.

      Then if Redbull, Mclaren and Ferrari can close the gap and be more competitive up front just imagine 2021….
      Lewis and George
      Max and Checo (hopefully)
      Lando and Danny
      Charles and Carlos
      …..and of course Alonso too in the Renault too if both get up to speed!

      What a year 2021 could be!

      1. The driver contracts tend to be written in such way that they don’t guarantee a seat but they do guarantee financial compensation if no seat is provided. That’s how prost and kimi were able to sit out a full season whilst being paid.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          7th December 2020, 16:39

          @socksolid Couple of things. That is not how Toto operates. If the contract is signed then he will honour it. He has already stated that he has loyalty for his current drivers. Bottas will not be ousted. One of the things that makes Mercedes F1 so successful is how they operate internally with transparency and honesty. Cutting Bottas loose before his contract is up would fly in the face of that. Secondly, it appears as though Perez is negotiating with Williams for a 2022 drive which makes it even more likely Russell will switch to Merc in 2022. If that is indeed true, it leaves Bottas high and dry as Williams will not kick Lattifi out for a non pay driver like Bottas.
          2022 does hinge on what Lewis does but it is highly likely he will negotiate a two, maybe even a three year deal for 2021, 22 and possibly 2023 as he has stated he wants to drive the 2022 cars. That would be George and Lewis at Merc with Bottas looking for a seat without the financial backing of Perez. Not a good look for Bottas.

          1. @davewillisporter Whether or not not toto operates in this or that way.. it is not even his call in the end. It is merc’s money and their decision. In the end toto has to look at the results and the reality and if that means rocking the boat and going against his principles (as much as anyone in f1 has those) he’ll do as told.

            You also talk about the way toto operates yet you conveniently forgot that before russell it was ocon who was supposed to get that merc drive. Instead ocon got a sabbatical. If russell gets a sabbatical he won’t be coming back to mercedes. Toto will likely just give him away to get the next young driver to throw into the mercedes young driver grinder. Couple of seasons at williams, then a year off and then free as a bird. Soon we could have quarter of the field full of mercedes rejects.

            As for perez negotiating with williams for 2022 doesn’t mean anything for russell moving to merc. We already had news that russell could be out of f1 already after this season if williams decides so. Maybe out permanently.

            If the bottas-russell move goes to the end of next year we are once again in the situation where the big wigs at merc look at russell’s results in the williams and compare those against bottas in the merc. Once again it’ll be difficult and no matter how well russell drives in abu dhabi his results at that point will be a distant memory. All we see is likely another pointless season at williams.

        2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          7th December 2020, 17:20

          @socksolid You don’t seem to be familiar with the fact that Toto owns 30% of the team and is team principle and CEO. That makes it his decision and his decision alone. The parent company Daimler CEO does not get involved as it would undermine Toto’s position as a part owner, team boss and CEO (CEO controls the business side including money) again going against the ethos of this team.
          Toto arranged for a seat at Renault for Ocon after Stroll took over Racing Point and pushed Lance into Ocon’s seat. Toto was absolutely livid with Renault when they went back on the deal with Ocon. That’s why Ocon took a sabbatical. It wasn’t Toto’s fault and he certainly wouldn’t do the same to Bottas. It’s pie in the sky thinking. Bottas will drive with Lewis in 2021, Russell will drive with Lewis in 2022.
          (Oh, and the Williams rumours earlier in the season regarding Russell possibly losing his seat to Perez? They were correct but about 2022 not 2021 and started probably by Perez management to put pressure on Redbull to make a decision)

          1. Toto owns 30%. That is not a majority. As for ocon toto allegedly had a spoken contract with renault to take ocon. Which is not professional and also a bit naive. Not to mention toto and ocon were also waiting later hoping to get better deals. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. As for russell’s 2020 season being his last at williams was definitely a possibility. For williams it was just a financial matter and all I can imagine is that wiliams did the calculations and chose the one with more zeros.

            Bottas has had three abysmal races now. Russell came in and was instantly strong. If merc can make it happen that russell drives for merc already in next year they’ll take it. But it is not about what mercedes or toto wants. It is what williams want because they hold the best cards. They have russell and they have his contract. But like all contracts in f1 it is all about money. Everybody wants more of it and if you want to change a contract you pay for it which means you’ll have less money. Bad thing. Bottas knows this, russell knows this and williams and merc knows it. Toto knows it. And none of them are trying to do the feel good decision. In the end all that matters is the financials that decide the outcome. Not feels or team ethos.

      2. Legally (at least in the EU), it has to be possible for employment contracts to be broken (though reasonable conditions, such as appropriate levels of compensation, can be imposed as conditions). The CRB is primarily there to ensure those conditions are met.

  8. One person really hoping Hamilton gets back would be Bottas. Being beaten by Hamilton is not one thing. But being beaten by the man who is going to take your place is another.

  9. If he’s a last minute pass on the covid front, why not complete the back-to-back comparison and have Lewis drive the Williams in Abu Dhabi?

    Double the fun!

    1. Yes, yes, yes, yes!

      Please Santa, this is what I want for Xmas

    2. Ooh, imagine THAT!

    3. @frasier If Russell struggles to fit into Hamilton’s car, presumably the opposite would be true were Lewis to take the Williams drive … he wouldn’t be able to reach the pedals.

      1. And by extension, the points!

  10. He’ll be very eager to get back before Russell proves again that actually dominating a race in such a superior car isn’t so hard after all, and Bottas is just as hopeless as many of us suspected. Say what you like, but this weekend really did tarnish Hamilton’s achievements. Still very impressive obviously, but… he’s not the only one who could have won all those championships. Not by a long shot.

    1. True. Bottas is clearly at Webber level, making it all too easy for the other

    2. Lewis is the best driver in the best car – it’s not his fault he makes it look so easy.

      1. @joshgeake Well, he’s better than his teammate certainly.

    3. Indeed, all this talk by him that we need to give “Bottas more credit” than he (Bottas) is currently getting is really an attempt by Ham to inflate his own achievements. We saw yesterday Russell is as aggressive, easily passed Bottas on older tires but Perez and Ocon’s hards were 2 laps older than Bottas’ own hards. He passed a further 2 cars and was hunting down Perez, had we not been denied an exiting finish I suspect Russell could have overtaken Perez and it will all look so spectacular but was that really Russell brilliance or was it a far superior car. I say a far superior car.

      Why is Russell not doing this at Williams, and why was Ham not doing this before 2014