Runaway leader Lewis Hamilton will have to sit out this week’s Sakhir Grand Prix after the Mercedes driver tested positive for COVID-19.
Hamilton returned three negative tests last week but began showing mild symptoms on Monday.
F1 released a statement confirming the news, stating that he tested positive during the mandatory pre-race PCR test, and adding that he is now self-isolating.
The statement concluded: “The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula 1 will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.”
Mercedes will therefore have to rely on a reserve driver to take up their second spot in the Grand Prix alongside Valtteri Bottas, who currently sits in second place in this year’s F1 driver standings.
Mercedes said it will name Hamilton’s replacement in “due course”.
In a statement, it said: “Apart from mild symptoms, [Hamilton] is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.”
There are a couple of different options regarding who could replace Hamilton for the race – we’ve picked them out below.
Who will replace Lewis Hamilton at Sakhir Grand Prix?
As Mercedes’ designated reserve driver for the Grand Prix, Vandoorne is by far the most likely candidate to take Hamilton’s place, and indeed he was always due to travel to Bahrain for the race anyway.
Should he take the spot, it will mark his first Formula One race for Mercedes in two years, although he has been a regular presence in Formula E – coming second in the championship earlier this year.
Hulkenberg has no previous association with Mercedes but could be considered as he has already been used a coronavirus replacement this season, having stood in for both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.
If they want to go for someone with more recent F1 experience, then, Hulkenberg could be their man.
Another possible option is to replace Hamilton with a fellow Brit, namely Williams driver George Russell –who is part of the Mercedes academy.
Williams have been struggling this season, with Russell 21st in the driver standings, so he could welcome the chance at the step-up, while it would also be an excellent chance for Mercedes to take a closer look at what Russell could do in one of their cars, as they consider signing him to replace either Hamilton or Bottas in the coming years.
Alongside Vandoorne, Gutierrez is a reserve driver for Mercedes – but unfortunately, he won’t be able to take part in the race as he no longer has an active superlicense.
The Mexican driver last raced in Formula One back in 2016, representing Haas and is currently performing a simulator role for Mercedes.