Seemingly, only the coronavirus can stop Lewis Hamilton.
The living legend F1 driver announced early Tuesday morning that he tested positive for COVID-19, entering self-isolation for 10 days and, effectively, missing this Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
pic.twitter.com/zE39QJURPW— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 1, 2020
Hamilton, coming off his 11th win of the 2020 Formula 1 year, already clinched his seventh driver championship and this weekend’s racing festivities are going to shine a small light on life after Hamilton and the future of a Mercedes seat when Hamilton eventually retires — or Valtteri Bottas is replaced.
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While Stoffel Vandoorne will likely get the nod this weekend, as he is the Mercedes reserve driver, there are a few more options should Mercedes decide to reverse course and hand the keys to someone else.
The Mercedes designated reserve driver is already heading to regroup with Mercedes (as was part of the original plan, per Formula1.com), meaning he might likely get the keys this weekend to drive.
Vandoorne last raced in Formula 1 in 2018 as part of McLaren team before being designated a Mercedes test/simulator driver in 2019, being named a reserve racer the same year. Vandoorne will have to pass a COVID test and be cleared to race before the move is officially announced.
The loudest contingent of fans screaming for Hamilton’s replacement are actually in support of George Russell, currently driving for Williams, but he’s part of the Mercedes Driver program.
Russell, in the midst of a dreadful year for Williams, has zero points and sits at 21st in the F1 driver standings. He’s long been connected to a Mercedes seat given Williams’ working relationship with Team Mercedes and his history with the driver program. It would be interesting to see whether Williams would be OK with Russell grabbing a seat in a Mercedes this weekend, but it’s a longshot.
A fan favorite currently without a wagon, Hulkenberg made a return to F1 earlier in the year, replacing Sergio Perez and eventually Lance Stroll in the seat of the Racing Point car, following positive COVID tests for both drivers.
Hulkenberg helped Racing Point to a seventh-place finish at the 70th Anniversary GP and an eighth-place spot at the Eifel GP, two of their better finishes in an otherwise up-and-down season for the team. Hulkenberg was also victim of a non-start at the British Grand Prix earlier in the year.