Lewis Hamilton is returning to the Formula 1 paddock after missing a race for the first time in his illustrious career. The Briton was under 10-day isolation after testing positive for the deadly COVID in Bahrain and thus, missed the Sakhir GP.
He came back with a rusty P3 in qualifying at the Abu Dhabi GP and by his own admission, wasn’t at his usual best.
“I’m not one hundred percent. I still have some feeling within my lungs… It definitely won’t be the easiest of races physically,” said Hamilton in post-qualifying interviews.
With the World title wrapped up, one might think that there was simply no need to get back in the cockpit here. However, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff attributes it to the stubborn nature of a racer.
Letting Hamilton take the call on his availability, he said, “Well, our race drivers always are obviously keen on returning to the race car, even if he isn’t one hundred percent. I think that’s expected after 10 days of COVID-19. You’re not going to be on your A-game, but I think absolutely good enough to race.”
“I think it’s absolutely his call to decide whether he’s fit enough or not. He’s a very experienced driver, he knows very well about his health, and he has been tested negative, and sometimes drivers are not perfectly well but they still race, and I think this is the situation.”
The seven-time World champion is not yet an official Silver Arrows driver for next season. The two parties haven’t put pen to paper on a deal for 2021. Talks were undergoing but got delayed by the Brit’s unexpected diagnosis. However, Wolff is planning to sit with Hamilton for talks after the race.
“I think we were delayed by him being unwell, and I think that’s not the right time to sit down. We were planning to sit down the other week, so it’s going to be a little bit later.”
In his absence in Sakhir, George Russell brilliantly stepped up. This paved way for chatter if Mercedes actually needs Hamilton enough to give him a huge contract.
One may wonder if Hamilton hurried his return in order to highlight his importance to the F1 paddock once again. So, expect him to stand atop the podium in Abu Dhabi.