While obviously pleased to be back for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after missing the first race of his career last weekend due to a positive COVID-19 test, Lewis Hamilton complemented the “amazing job” George Russell did in his place at the last race in his first media appearance since his return.
Russell was allowed to race for Mercedes in Bahrain, with Jack Aitken stepping into the Williams as a result. Russell duly qualified just 0.026s off pole position and took the lead from teammate Valtteri Bottas at the start before pit stop errors cost him his chance of victory. Hamilton says he was impressed by his replacement’s performance but is glad to be back in the car himself.
“I was very, very happy and grateful this morning just to be back here and to try and finish off the season strong,” Hamilton said. “I was super excited — it felt like the first day back at school kind of thing. It definitely took a minute to get back used to it, for the first session; then the second one I think I was still getting my bearings, but not too bad. I think we got through most of the stuff we missed out in the 40 minutes at the start of the day but otherwise got most of the stuff done.
“I think George did an amazing job, I think everyone knows that. It was definitely odd. For me in 27 years of racing I’ve never missed a race — one day I’ll write a book about it but as I said I’m just grateful to be back.”
Hamilton secured his seventh drivers’ championship in Turkey, meaning there were only individual results to be missed out on if he did not drive in the final two races, but he says his motivation to return is simply down to his love of the job.
“I don’t think I need to do any more to seal what I’ve done. Not particularly important at all. Just want to come here and enjoy this weekend, enjoy what I do — there has been a huge amount of work from everyone back at the factories and it has been a privilege to race with them this year.
“So we don’t have anything to prove this weekend; don’t feel I have anything to prove, just here to have some fun.”