RACE DEBRIEF

    Valtteri Bottas will have a different team mate at Mercedes this weekend after Lewis Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19 in Bahrain. So what happens now?

    How is Lewis Hamilton doing and when will he return?

    The good news is that right now, Hamilton is feeling fit and well, apart from mild symptoms for Covid-19, so fingers crossed the Mercedes driver makes a swift recovery.

    READ MORE: Hamilton ruled out of Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for Covid-19

    Hamilton wanted to win all of the remaining races, and is clearly in the form to do so, but getting better and returning to full fitness will be his main priority, especially given the World Championship has already been won.

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    Hamilton is showing only mild symptoms after a postive Covid-19

    Aside from definitely missing the Sakhir Grand Prix, his participation in the season finale is in doubt because of the strict Covid restrictions in place in both Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

    In any event, he will not be allowed return to a Formula 1 paddock - or even travel to Abu Dhabi - until he has returned a negative result, so at the moment it is not certain either way.

    Who else was affected?

    There are strict protocols in place so when someone tests positive, all close contacts are declared. This has been the case with Hamilton.

    Those contacts will be retested and isolate until they know the outcome. Results have been returned quickly in Bahrain, usually within six hours.

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    Could this mean Hamilton's season is over? There are questions surrounding his involvement in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

    Who will replace Hamilton?

    Mercedes are still working on that.

    Their reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne will travel to Bahrain after completing Formula E testing in Valencia, Spain, on Tuesday – as was originally planned.

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    Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne is currently testing Formula E machinery in Valencia

    It is far from certain whether or not the Belgian, who has experience in the Mercedes simulator and previously raced in F1 for McLaren for two full seasons, will get the nod.

    Mercedes junior George Russell, currently at Williams, could be in contention. They could also go for Nico Hulkenberg, who did three races this year subbing in for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at Racing Point.

    What impact will this have on the race weekend?

    Hamilton, by his own admission, did not make any mistakes in Bahrain as he collected his 11th victory of the season so his absence will open things up dramatically at a venue which will use a different ‘outer loop’ layout.

    His team mate Valtteri Bottas struggled for pace in Bahrain versus his team mate, while the Red Bull was closer on pure performance, taking the two other podiums spots.

    READ MORE: 6 Winners and 5 Losers from an extraordinary Bahrain Grand Prix – who made the list?

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    Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Alex Albon occupied the other podium spots in Bahrain as Valtteri Bottas struggled

    Throw in a Racing Point that is mighty in Bahrain too, and this is arguably the most open Grand Prix we’ve had in years.

    How does the affect the two championships?

    Obviously, the drivers’ and constructors’ titles have already been decided, but there is still plenty to play for.

    With the lead driver out of the fight, bigger points could be available for the midfield teams – McLaren, Racing Point, Renault and Ferrari – locked in a tense fight for P3 that brings big prize money – 40 points separating the quartet.

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain
    With Lewis Hamilton out of the picture, could we see one of the midfield teams step up to the podium?

    A big haul this weekend could put that position out of reach before Abu Dhabi.

    Similarly, in the drivers’ fight for P4, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc are separated by just four points. Based on Perez’s form last weekend, Hamilton’s absence shifts the favour to him.