Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton is having a tough time at being forced to miss the Sakhir Grand Prix with COVID-19, but is “in safe hands” after suffering mild symptoms of the virus.
Hamilton tested negative three times in Bahrain — including on Sunday before winning the last race — but woke up on Monday morning with symptoms and tested positive, ruling him out of at least this weekend’s race and potentially the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Wolff says the world champion is struggling at the moment both in terms of his health and missing out on driving.
“He’s not great,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “COVID-19 is something you must not take lightly. He’s in safe hands, that’s most important. It’s those early days which aren’t so nice.
“Mild symptoms and obviously as you can imagine a race driver out of his car and combine it with COVID… he’d rather sit in there.”
Expanding on Hamilton’s health later on, Wolff downplayed how unwell the seven-time champion is feeling but admits it is unlikely his driver will be back in time for the next race in Abu Dhabi.
“He’s recovering. I think those first few days are always critical once you catch corona. He’s OK, he has symptoms but they are relatively mild.
“We have seen tests that were negative within 10 days, so I think that is perfectly feasible in my opinion but it would be a very positive development. Nevertheless you need to look at the situation anyway because there are many athletes and sportspeople who have tested positive for a long time after any symptoms and after they have been in any way infectious, so this is something the FIA needs to look into anyway.”
With Russell finishing the two Friday practice sessions quickest overall, Wolff also says he doesn’t think Hamilton will be paying too much attention even if the Williams driver excels.
“Lewis knew who the candidates were and who we were talking to. I think those very special drivers, they see and know who is going to come up and who one day could be up there for victories and championships. I think his priority is now to get healthy. I’m not sure he is going to follow in detail what is happening on track. If you are in bed and not feeling great, racing becomes a second priority.”