Sir Lewis Hamilton has taken to social media to welcome back Sebastian Vettel after the German’s COVID-enforced absence from the opening two rounds of the 2022 Formula 1 season.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, 10 drivers have tested positive for the virus, and seven of them – excluding Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc – have been forced to miss track action as a result.
Hamilton himself was one of them when he had to sit out the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, leaving George Russell to fill in and agonisingly miss out on his maiden race win having dominated much of the evening.
Hamilton then suffered from dizziness and blurred vision on the podium at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, and indicated that he was feeling the effects of “long COVID” seven months after he had tested positive.
“I’ve been fighting all year, really, with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year. It’s still a battle,” the Mercedes driver said after the race.
Daniel Ricciardo would then also contract the virus during pre-season testing in Bahrain earlier this year.
And, following his proximity to Vettel earlier in the week, the four-time champion also tested positive and was forced to sit out both the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg stepped in to replace him, performing exceptionally alongside team-mate Lance Stroll.
Since the race in Jeddah, the Silverstone team have divulged that Vettel has recovered and is good to go for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend.
“We are pleased to confirm that Sebastian Vettel is now fit to race and will therefore line up alongside Lance Stroll in Melbourne to kick off his 2021 F1 season at the Australian Grand Prix,” they wrote in a social media post.
Reacting to the news that Vettel will be back in action in Melbourne, Hamilton added this post to his Instagram story, commenting “Covid is no joke, welcome back” along with a praying emoji.
Aston Martin are scoreless thus far in 2022, leading Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko to question Vettel’s motivation to race in Formula 1 this campaign with what looks like a woefully uncompetitive car.