World Champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss this weekend’s Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix.
Hamilton returned the positive result during mandatory testing ahead of the upcoming round and is now isolating in Bahrain.
He has displayed “mild symptoms” according to his Mercedes team but is “otherwise fit and well.”
Hamilton is the third driver to test positive for the virus, following Racing Point pair Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, and will now miss the upcoming round in Bahrain, with his participation in the Abu Dhabi finale also in doubt.
A replacement for Hamilton will be announced in due course.
“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 as part of the standard race weekend testing programme,” read a Mercedes statement.
“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.
“Lewis is now isolating in accordance with Covid-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain. Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.”
It will be the first time that Hamilton has missed a Formula 1 event since making his grand prix debut in 2007 and ends his record-breaking streak of 265 consecutive race starts.
Hamilton has dominated the 2020 campaign, taking 11 victories from 15 starts, including the last five, and sealed a record-equalling seventh world title with three rounds to spare.
Hamilton controlled last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position but the positive test means he will not be able to take part in the second event this weekend.
The last time a driver missed a race in their title-winning campaign was in 1994, when Michael Schumacher claimed the crown despite being suspended for two events.
Formula 1 has implemented measures to minimise the risk of personnel contracting Covid-19 throughout the delayed 2020 campaign.
Formula 1 teams have operated in bubbles, and sub-bubbles, while everyone is tested for Covid-19 prior to an event, within 24 hours of first arriving in the paddock, and on Sunday morning prior to the race.
Mercedes has several options to line up in place of Hamilton, with George Russell, Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez potential candidates.
Russell stepped up to Formula 1 with Williams in 2019 but has been backed by Mercedes since junior formula, when he won back-to-back titles in GP3 and Formula 2.
Russell has yet to score a point in Formula 1 but has been lumbered with backmarker machinery and has out-qualified his team-mate at each event since debuting last season.
Russell has also had several Formula 1 test outings for Mercedes, most recently at last year’s post-season running in Abu Dhabi.
In the event of Russell being drafted into action by Mercedes then Williams has Jack Aitken as its officially nominated reserve driver.
Vandoorne, who made his Formula 1 debut as a stand-in in Bahrain in 2016, raced for McLaren across 2017/18, scoring 26 points.
He picked up an affiliation with Mercedes after leaving McLaren, joining the manufacturer as reserve driver, and has since represented it in Formula E, finishing runner-up in the 2019/20 campaign.
Vandoorne is currently in Valencia for Formula E testing but will travel to Bahrain after wrapping up his duties later on Tuesday, as was the plan prior to Hamilton’s positive result.
Gutierrez has been affiliated with Mercedes for several years and last raced in Formula 1 for Haas in 2016 thought the exact position on his Super Licence is unclear.
Nico Hulkenberg acted as stand-in for Perez and Stroll earlier in the season.