lewis hamilton, mercedes, f1

Hamilton: It felt like a first day back at school

Formula 1 has an end-of-term feel to it ahead of the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi but Friday felt like a return to school for seven times champion Lewis Hamilton after being laid low by COVID-19.

The Mercedes driver, who wrapped up his seventh championship in Turkey last month, missed the Sakhir Grand Prix after going into isolation in Bahrain and was given the all-clear to race again only on Thursday.

“I was very, very happy and grateful this morning just to be back here and obviously to be able to try and finish off this season strong,” the Briton told Sky television.

“Super excited. It felt like a first day back at school kind of thing. It definitely took a minute to get back used to it for the first session, and then the second one still getting my bearings.”

Hamilton said the team had tested developments for next season.

The Sakhir Grand Prix was the first Hamilton has missed in his F1 career as he was replaced by compatriot George Russell, who might have won but for Mercedes bungling a pitstop and then having a late puncture.

Hamilton was impressed with his super-sub, 22-year-old Russell, who has returned to Williams, I think George did an amazing job. So I think everyone knows that.”

As for why he decided to return for the finale in light of the fact the title has been bagged long ago, he explained, “I just want to come here and enjoy it this weekend and enjoy what I do.

“It’s been a huge amount of work from everyone back at the factories, and it’s been a privilege to race with them this year. So we don’t have anything to prove this weekend. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove.

“Just here to have some fun,” added the World Champ, who was second quickest at the end of day one at Yas Marina Circuit on Friday.