F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is in a race to get fit and test negative for COVID-19 in order to participate in the Abu Dhabi GP.
While Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were both quickly able to recover and return after missing races due to positive tests, Hamilton’s case is made more complicated by the strict regulations applied in both Bahrain and in Abu Dhabi.
He remains under a strict quarantine in Bahrain, and is currently just seven days into it.
However, the biggest challenge is that Abu Dhabi has applied especially tight restrictions, where all regular arrivals in the country face a 14-day quarantine.
An exception has been made for F1, and the entire paddock is obliged to travel on Monday under controlled conditions, before entering a closed “biosphere” around the track and the neighbouring hotels.
Hamilton has the flexibility of travelling in a private jet, but he will have to gain special dispensation from the Abu Dhabi authorities if he is to travel later this week.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made it clear that Hamilton's car will be waiting for him if he is able to travel.
“I think if Lewis recovers, and is getting better every day, and he’s been considered COVID free, negative, then he will be in the car,” he said after Sunday’s Sakhir GP.
FIA race director Michael Masi said Hamilton’s fate was in the hands of the two governments involved.
“Obviously the main part with all of this has always been complying with the respective governments, laws and regulations,” said Masi.
“So it's very much a decision for the Bahraini health authorities to determine if Lewis is fit and complies with their regulations, and then further for the Abu Dhabi authorities to determine their criteria.
“So it's effectively two government entities that need to determine entry criteria. If he meets the entry criteria of the respective governments and then further complies with the testing protocol from an FIA perspective, in being tested negative prior to entering the paddock, then there's no problems from our perspective."
In theory, Hamilton has to be in Abu Dhabi at the latest by Saturday afternoon in order to participate in the qualifying session.
“Within the current framework of the regulations, similar to what was used in Nurburgring, as long as the driver participates in a practice session, or qualifying, they're permitted to race,” said Masi.
“So technically here and now a driver only has to fulfil one of those criteria.
“So they couldn't just turn up and race, as their only thing, they would have to do one of the practice sessions, be it free practice or qualifying practice beforehand.”
The problem for both Mercedes and Williams is that both need to know as soon as possible if Hamilton is able to travel, and commit by Friday to Russell driving the car or not, to avoid the possibility of him having to swap back in the middle of the weekend.
Should it become apparent that Hamilton’s car will only be vacant on Friday, one option could be to allow reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to drive it until the world champion arrives, rather than disrupt Russell’s preparations with Williams.