ABU DHABI • World champion Lewis Hamilton made a quiet return to action after recovering from Covid-19, coming in fifth in yesterday’s opening practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the times, clocking a best lap in 1min 37.378sec to outpace Valtteri Bottas by 0.034sec.
Fellow Mercedes driver Hamilton, who was 1.3sec slower, suffered brake problems that sent him back to the garage just three laps after he hit the track.
The seven-time champion missed last Sunday’s Sakhir GP due to a positive test. But Mercedes and the International Automobile Federation both confirmed on Thursday that he had returned several negative tests after completing a 10-day quarantine period in Bahrain.
Hamilton’s absence from the Sakhir race was the first of his F1 career and came after 265 consecutive races since the Briton made his 2007 debut in Melbourne.
His return should restore normal order to Mercedes, whose pit-stop bungle cost both substitute driver George Russell and Bottas last weekend.
Russell, who came agonisingly close to a shock maiden victory, will return to driving for strugglers Williams but said he was still “buzzing” from his experience.
The Briton finished in the points for the first time, coming in ninth at Sakhir, and also clocked the fastest lap of the race.
While Williams are still without a point this season, Russell tweeted on Thursday, along with a photo of himself in his Williams racing suit: “Back home at Williams Racing, checking it still fits! Did I miss much?
“Seriously though, glad to see Lewis Hamilton back and fighting fit. Had a blast with Mercedes, but now I’m buzzing to put everything I’ve learned into action with my team. Gonna give it everything this weekend – just as they do for me week in, week out.”
F1 ABU DHABI GP
Practice 3 (5.55pm) & qualifying (8.30pm), Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208