The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the grand finale to the 2020 Formula 1 season which went ahead with 17 races despite the obvious challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. World champion Lewis Hamilton said he was "happy to be alive" after recovering from COVID-19, but was visibly struggling throughout the final race weekend.
Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was the first leg of the final triple-header in the Middle East. He missed the Sakhir GP at the same location, as he was forced into isolation while he was recovering from the dreaded disease. Fellow Briton George Russell took over his Mercedes in Sakhir, providing a breath of fresh air for F1 fans around the world.
After much speculation, it was announced that Hamilton tested negative last Wednesday, and has been cleared to travel to Abu Dhabi. A subsequent negative test cleared him to race in the season finale. However, he was clearly struggling throughout the weekend.
Hamilton ran limited practice sessions and only qualified in third place behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Even more surprising was the race result. In a somewhat sleepy, uneventful race, it was the usual suspects at the podium in the end. However, the usual HAM-BOT-VER combination came in reverse order. Verstappen claimed the victory as he led all the way from pole, with neither Mercedes posing much of a challenge.
After the race, Hamilton settled for third place as was so visibly winded during his interview. He admitted that he could not wait for the race to be over and that his body was not where it used to be. While numerous physically-fit athletes have recovered from COVID-19 and returned to action, not many have done so in such a short period of time.
Hamilton skipped only one race, and was back behind the wheel less than two weeks after his diagnosis. It begs the question, was it wise to have him return so quickly? Nevertheless, he is happy to be alive and has stated that he is looking forward to spending the next few weeks recovering and getting back in shape. Hopefully, some of that time will also be spent finalising his contract for next season, which also suffered a delay due to his illness.