Lewis Hamilton will race at season-ending Abu Dhabi after bout with COVID-19

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has recovered from COVID-19 and will race at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, the Mercedes team said Thursday.

Hamilton’s presence at the Yas Marina circuit means that George Russell returns to drive for Williams in Sunday’s race.

The seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19 the day after winning the Bahrain GP on Nov. 29 and missed last weekend’s Sakhir GP in Bahrain as he self-isolated for 10 days.

“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,” Mercedes said in a statement. “Lewis has therefore completed the protocols required by the FIA for his entry to the paddock and will be able to take part in the race weekend.”

Governing body FIA confirmed that Hamilton was free to leave Bahrain according to the health authority regulations in place.

WATCH | Hamilton secures his 95th win in Bahrain:

Lewis Hamilton claims his 95th career F1 win Sunday in Bahrain after several delays including a flip over by Canada’s Lance Stroll. 3:35

Hamilton has won the Abu Dhabi GP a record five times, including the past two years.

Lance Stroll makes strides in season

Canada’s Lance Stroll started the season hoping to end a run of three largely frustrating seasons on the circuit. He enters this week’s 2020 finale feeling “very satisfied” with his year as a whole.

“I think I proved a lot to myself this year, which I needed in this sport for a long time,” Stroll said Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Montreal returned to the podium this season for the first time since finishing third as a rookie at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Stroll was third in September at the Italian GP, earned his first career pole at last month’s Turkish GP and finished third last week at the Sakhir GP.

WATCH | Stroll hits the podium:

Sergio Perez captured his first career F1 win in Bahrain and his Canadian teammate Lance Stroll joined him on the podium, finishing third. 3:35

He enters this week’s season finale at Abu Dhabi in 10th place in the overall standings and his Racing Point BWT Mercedes team is third in the constructor standings.

“We are where we are with one race left and whatever happens will happen,” Stroll said. “But I know we have a strong package and we’ve just got to do our thing this weekend.”

Speaking on an end-of-season video call with Canadian media, Stroll said he had a “great year in many ways,” although there were challenges along the way, including a bout with COVID-19 that sidelines him for a month. 

Stroll has mixed feelings on his results over the campaign. He said he was pleased with his first-half performance but feels there were some missed opportunities at times too.

“I think there (was) a bit of a rough patch there for five or six races where we didn’t really capitalize and we didn’t score the points that we deserved with the car we had,” he said.

“So a part of me is frustrated by that but at the same time, to see the potential … I think that as a team we will only grow and that makes me very excited going into next year.”

Vettel’s last race with Ferrari

Practice sessions are set for Friday and Saturday morning at the Abu Dhabi GP. Qualifying goes Saturday afternoon and the race is scheduled for Sunday.

Sunday will also feature Sebastian Vettel’s last race with Ferrari after joining the Italian team in 2015. The four-time F1 champion, who has struggled most of the season, is racing for Aston Martin next year.

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