F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for coronavirus just days after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The British driver, 35, has mild symptoms according to his Mercedes team and has been forced to isolate in a hotel in Bahrain for 10 days, ruling him out of the upcoming Sakhir Grand Prix.
It comes after Hamilton marked clinching the championship on November 15 by heading home to Monaco and celebrating with his family.
He shared footage of himself running along the beach and also posted a video of himself playing tennis with his father. Taking to Instagram, Hamilton joked that the pair were trying to improve before tagging Serena Williams, asking for tips.
Mercedes say Hamilton was tested extensively last week, returning three negative results, including one on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit.
However, on Monday he woke up with mild coronavirus symptoms before being informed that a contact prior to his arrival in Bahrain had tested positive for the illness.
Hamilton then took another test which came back positive and was confirmed by a further retest.
The seven-time world champion, due to be knighted in the New Year’s Honours List, has not missed an F1 race since his debut in the sport in 2007 but will now sit on the sidelines for the penultimate race of the season.
A Formula One statement on Tuesday said: ‘The FIA, Formula One and Mercedes Team can today confirm that during mandatory pre-race PRC testing for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for Covid-19.
‘In accordance with Covid-19 protocols, he is now isolating. All contacts have been declared. The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula One will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.’
Mercedes added in a statement of their own: ‘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.
‘However, he woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to his 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. Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.’
Hamilton appeared to be drained at the end of the Bahrain GP, which was marred by a crash that left Romain Grosjean with minor burns to his hands and ankles after his Haas car crashed and burst into flames moments after the start.
“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 following Sunday’s race. “I was sliding around a lot out there and I wasn’t really quite sure how it would play out at the end.”
Hamilton, who wrapped up his record-equalling seventh world championship in Turkey last month, is the third driver to have contracted the illness.
Sergio Perez missed the British and 70th Anniversary Grands Prix at Silverstone in August, while his Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll also tested positive following October’s Eifel Grand Prix in Germany.
Hamilton won this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, his 11th triumph of 2020, in a race that will be better remembered for Romain Grosjean’s remarkable escape from his fireball inferno.
His positive test and withdrawal means that he will miss out on matching Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel’s joint record for the most number of victories in a year – which he could have managed by winning the final two rounds in Bahrain next Sunday and at the season-decider in Abu Dhabi on December 13.
He will need to return a negative test before he is clear to take part in the final race of the reason.
In July, Hamilton faced public criticism and was forced to clarify his own views after he shared an anti-vaxxer post on his Instagram account.
Hamilton shared a post which suggested Bill Gates was lying when talking about coronavirus vaccine trials with his 18.3million followers. A clip of Gates offering reassurances about vaccines was captioned ‘I remember when I told my first lie.’
Hamilton deleted the video and published a statement saying he hadn’t seen the comment attached to the clip, but wanted to show there is ‘uncertainty around side effects’ of vaccines.
‘I’ve noticed some comments on my earlier post about the coronavirus vaccine, and want to clarify my thoughts on it, as I understand why they might have been misinterpreted,” he said.
‘Firstly I hadn’t actually seen the comment attached so that is totally my fault and I have a lot of respect for the charity work Bill Gates does.
‘I also want to be clear that I am not against a vaccine and no doubt it will be important in the fight against coronavirus, and I’m hopeful for its development to save lives.
‘However after watching the video, I felt it showed that there is still a lot of uncertainty about the side effects most importantly and how it is going to be funded. I may not always get my posting right. I’m only human but I’m learning as we go.’
Sunday’s race will be the first Hamilton has missed since his debut at the 2007 season-opening race in Australia.
Mercedes have yet to confirm who will replace the Englishman for Sunday’s grand prix on the Outer Loop of the Bahrain International Circuit.
Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, formerly of McLaren, is in the running, while the world champions could also turn to British driver George Russell.
Russell, 22, is in his second season with Williams, but is a member of the Mercedes junior driver programme.