Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will return for Mercedes in Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after testing negative for COVID-19.
Hamilton was replaced for last weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain by fellow Briton George Russell, who was unlucky not to win.
Mercedes said on Thursday that Hamilton, 35, had already arrived at the Yas Marina circuit after ending 10 days of quarantine in Bahrain.
Russell will now return to Williams, his regular team, with their reserve Jack Aitken standing down after his race debut last weekend.
“Lewis tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday prior to completion of his self-isolation period in Bahrain,” Mercedes said in a statement.
“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,” added the team.
The FIA confirmed separately that Hamilton would be granted access to the paddock after testing negative in both Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
The news gives Hamilton a shot at winning for the 12th time in 17 races, a result that would cement the pandemic-hit 2020 season as his most successful yet.
The Briton is already the sport’s most successful driver of all-time, surpassing Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record 91 wins and equalling the German’s seven titles.
Mercedes have won the last six races at the Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton taking four of them including the most recent two. The Briton has also been on pole five times.
While his return will be welcomed by fans, there will still be some disappointment for those who had hoped to see Russell get a second chance at victory after his impressive debut for the team a week ago.
The Mercedes-contracted youngster qualified on the front row, took the lead into the first corner and led for 59 laps before Mercedes botched his pitstop and a late puncture brought further misfortune.
Russell still finished ninth and with the fastest lap for his first points in Formula One.
Russell himself has dampened speculation about the prospect of an early move to Mercedes.
The 22-year-old Briton had fuelled some chatter when he said in Bahrain last Sunday that he hoped he had given Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff a selection headache “not just for 2022, maybe sooner”.
“That was just a throwaway remark in the heat of the moment,” Russell told reporters on Thursday.
“Obviously emotions were high and what have you. I have a contract and am a Williams driver for 2021.”
Valtteri Bottas is out of contract at the end of next season, when Mercedes-managed Russell will be firmly in the frame for a move.