Mercedes say Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is “improving” as it waits on news of his COVID-19 recovery ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

The seven-time world champion missed the Sakhir Grand Prix after becoming the third F1 driver this year to test positive for coronavirus, with Williams regular George Russell standing in to replace his compatriot at Mercedes last weekend. 

Hamilton is currently observing a 10-day period of mandatory self-isolation in Bahrain which will elapse on Thursday. He must return a negative test before he is allowed to travel to Abu Dhabi

SEE ALSO: The hurdles Hamilton must pass in race to return in Abu Dhabi 

The 35-year-old Briton would then need to isolate for a further 24 hours before he is permitted to enter the F1 paddock. 

Russell starred on his Mercedes debut last weekend in Bahrain and came agonisingly close to a fairytale maiden F1 victory before a pit-stop mix-up and a late puncture ended his hopes. 

The 22-year-old will carry out media duties for Mercedes alongside Valtteri Bottas on Thursday at the Yas Marina Circuit, but team boss Toto Wolf says the German manufacturer will do “everything we can” to ensure Hamilton can race if he has overcome COVID-19 in time. 

"There are still some question marks over who will be in the car this weekend in Abu Dhabi," Wolff said in Mercedes’ preview ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP. 

"Lewis's condition is improving, but we won't know until closer to the time if he will be driving.

"We'll do everything we can to get him in the car and we know he's determined to be back as soon as possible.

"But his health is our main priority, so we will see what the situation is and then make the call.”

Not only does Hamilton require negative tests in order to get into the United Arab Emirates for the 2020 season finale, but he will also need to secure an exemption to travel between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi from government officials. 

The country currently has a strict 14-day quarantine period for all arrivals, though F1 personnel have been granted dispensation to travel on special charter flights from Bahrain. 

Mercedes is keen to leave it as late as possible in order to enable Hamilton to participate, though the latest it could put its star driver in the car and still race is on Saturday for qualifying. 

Speaking publicly for the first time since his diagnosis in a video message on social media released on Tuesday, Hamilton said he was “feeling great” and was hoping to return to action in Abu Dhabi. 

Wolff also revealed that Mercedes will be running a “slightly different livery” on its cars in Abu Dhabi to incorporate all of the names of its team members. 

"We have a very special surprise this weekend in Abu Dhabi for our team members," Wolff said.

"We'll be running a slightly different livery on Saturday and Sunday featuring everyone's name on the car to honour the huge commitment and determination from everybody in Brixworth and Brackley.

"Everyone has pushed hard this year, raising the bar through this massively intense season, and we hope this gesture goes some way in showing the appreciation we have for everyone involved."

 

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