Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the upcoming Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, the sport’s governing body, the FIA, said on Tuesday.
Briton Hamilton, who has already wrapped up his seventh world title and picked up his 11th win of the season at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, was isolating with mild symptoms but otherwise fit and well, his Mercedes team said in a statement.
“Lewis was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit…,” the Brackley-based team said.
“However, he woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive.
“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.”
By missing Sakhir, the penultimate race on the calendar, Hamilton will not be able to match the record for the most wins in a single season. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel share that mark with 13 wins — Schumacher from 18 races in 2004 and Vettel from 19 in 2013.
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The season will end with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina track on Dec. 13. It is unclear whether Hamilton will take part.
Mercedes said they would announce a replacement driver for the Sakhir race in due course.
Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, who races for the Mercedes Formula E team and had been scheduled to fly to Bahrain even before Hamilton’s positive result, and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez are the team’s reserve drivers.
They also have Briton George Russell, who races for Williams, on their books.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said in October that every precaution was being taken to shield Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas from the pandemic, with internal debriefs and engineering meetings also taking place via video call.
Hamilton, 35, has been staying in his motorhome at most circuits.
Formula One has seen a clutch of high-profile COVID-19 cases, with Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley testing positive last week and missing the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Williams team last month said it had registered a number of positive COVID-19 cases including acting team principal Simon Roberts, who missed the Turkish Grand Prix.
Racing Point have had both their drivers, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, as well as team owner Lawrence Stroll test positive.
Formula One embarked on a shortened 17-race season in July after a positive test for a McLaren employee forced the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March.
The sport has put strict rules in place to try to keep the novel coronavirus at bay. Personnel cannot access the paddock without a negative result and are tested every five days. Teams also do their own tests.