Lewis Hamilton ‘devastated’ to miss Sunday’s race after testing positive for COVID-19

Lewis Hamilton COVID-19 positive
Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SAKHIR, Bahrain — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain

The Mercedes team said in a statement Tuesday that Hamilton was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last on Sunday afternoon before his victory at the Bahrain International Circuit.

“But he up woke Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive,” the team said. “Lewis, therefore, took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.”

In a social media post Tuesday, Hamilton wrote he was “devastated” to be sidelined, noting he and Mercedes had taken as many precautions as possible while following all protocols.

Hamilton said he had gone into self-isolation for 10 days, which would leave open the possibility for returning in the Dec. 13 season finale at Abu Dhabi. His absence from Sunday’s race (which will take place on a different layout at the same track in Bahrain) will snap a streak of 265 consecutive F1 starts for Hamilton, who made his debut in the 2007 season opener.

“I’m gutted not to be able to race this weekend, but my priority is to follow the protocols and advice to protect others,” Hamilton posted. “I’m really lucky that I feel OK with only mild symptoms and will do my best to stay fit and healthy.

“Please look after yourselves out there. You can never be too careful. These are worrying times for everyone, and we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and each other. Stay positive.”

“Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery,” the team statement said.

Hamilton, 35, appeared to be drained at the end of the Bahrain GP, which was marred by an opening-lap crash that left Romain Grosjean with minor burns to his hands and ankles.

“It’s physical, this track has always been physical. We’ve got lots of high-speed corners so I was definitely feeling it,” Hamilton said after his 95th career victory. “I was sliding around a lot out there and I wasn’t really quite sure how it would play out at the end.”

Hamilton clinched the drivers’ championship last month in Turkey and has a big lead in the standings with 332 points, well ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas (201) and Max Verstappen (189).

He has won 11 races this season. But missing the Sakhir GP means he will not be able to win a 13th and equal Sebastian Vettel’s record, set in 2013 with Red Bull.

Hamilton also will miss out on reaching a 100th pole position. His pole last weekend was the record-extending 98th of his career.

The Mercedes team said it would announce a replacement driver later in the week. Reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne already was scheduled to travel to Bahrain after Formula E testing in Valencia.

After clinching the championship in Turkey, Hamilton talked of how vigilant he’d been to avoid contracting COVID-19. In March, he posted a health update after being at an event attended by multiple celebrities who tested positive for COVID-19.

Hamilton is the third F1 driver to test positive for COVID-19 this season, following Sergio Perez (who missed two consecutive races at Silverstone) and Lance Stroll in Germany. Formula One administers thousands of tests before and during every race weekend, limiting paddock access to those who test negative.

Formula One organizers said Hamilton needs a negative test before being allowed to return to the F1 paddock and, therefore, remains a doubtful starter for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.