MX23RW : Wednesday, August 4 09:36:06| >> :600:20278441:20278441:

Lewis Hamilton admits he is not at 100% after recovering from coronavirus

Lewis Hamilton will line up from third on the grid after Max Verstappen claimed the first non-Mercedes pole of the year.

Lewis Hamilton is braced to put his body on the line after revealing he is short of 100 per cent fitness on his Formula One comeback in Abu Dhabi.

The seven-time world champion missed the only race of his 14-season F1 career at the Sakhir Grand Prix last weekend with coronavirus.

Hamilton was bed-ridden in Bahrain quarantine for a week as he fought the virus and lost more than a kilogram in weight.

But after returning a series of negative tests, Hamilton was given the green light to return to the cockpit of his world championship winning machine for the concluding round of the season.

The 35-year-old will line up from third on the grid after Max Verstappen claimed the first non-Mercedes pole of the year in dry conditions. The Red Bull driver edged out Valtteri Bottas by 0.025 seconds, with Hamilton 0.086 sec off the Dutchman’s pace.

British driver Lando Norris dazzled under the lights of the Yas Marina circuit to finish fourth for McLaren.

“I don’t want to go into too much detail of the experience,” said a noticeably slimmer Hamilton, who coughed on several occasions during his post-qualifying media duties.

“I really feel for those who have suffered from Covid-19, those who have lost loved ones from it, and I can understand how, because it is a nasty virus.

“I am not at 100 per cent. I still have some feeling within my lungs. It is overall energy. One of the symptoms is that it really drains you, and I am trying to sleep as much as I can.

“Recharging is not as easy as it has been in the past.  I have lost a good, good amount of weight, just in that week.

“But I would drive even if one of my arms was hanging off – that is what we do as racing drivers.

“It definitely will not be the easiest of races physically tomorrow, but I will manage it and give it everything I have got.”

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, said: “A race driver is obviously keen on returning to the car even if he is not 100 per cent.

“It is expected that after 10 days with Covid-19, you are not going to be on your A-game, but he is absolutely good enough to race.

Toto Wolff
Toto Wolff (Tim Goode/PA)

“He has tested negative and sometimes, drivers are not perfectly well but they still race and this is the situation with Lewis.”

F1 is gearing up for the final act of a breathless coronavirus–disturbed calendar of 17 races inside just 24 weeks.

Hamilton wrapped up his record-equalling title in Turkey last month. The Mercedes driver faces 55 laps of this 3.45-mile track, made up of 21 corners, to capture his 12th win of 2020.

However, he will start on the backfoot after Verstappen delivered an imperious lap, befitting of his impressive campaign, to capture the third pole of his career. The last five winners of this race have started from the front, too.

Hamilton’s Sakhir GP stand-in George Russell, who was denied victory twice on his Mercedes debut, was brought back down to earth with a thud in Abu Dhabi after he qualified only 18th.

Russell missed out on pole in Bahrain by just 0.026 seconds seven days ago. Here, and back at Williams – the British team whom are on course to end another season without scoring a point – Russell was almost three seconds off Verstappen’s pole lap.

Sergio Perez, who took advantage of Russell’s misfortune to claim the first win of his career last Sunday, finished 15th. But he will be thrown to the back of the field for an engine penalty on his final drive for Racing Point.

Perez will be replaced by Sebastian Vettel at the team, rebranded as Aston Martin in 2021.

In the last one-lap appearance of his six-season Ferrari career, the quadruple world champion finished 13th, seven tenths slower than Charles Leclerc. Leclerc finished ninth but will serve a three-place grid penalty for his collision with Perez on the opening lap last time out.

Vettel has endured a torrid year with the Scuderia and he heads for his last dance in red 13th in the championship – an eye-watering 299 points behind Hamilton and 65 points adrift of Leclerc.

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States25292276
Great BritainGreat Britain14181547
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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