Lewis Hamilton ‘not at 100 per cent’ in Abu Dhabi after recovering from Covid-19

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.

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Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton raises his 3rd-place trophy on the podium after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on December 13, 2020. (Photo by Bryn Lennon / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Racing Head of Car Engineering Paul Monaghan celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talk in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP stands on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace - Pool/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (background) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton do doughnuts after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on December 13, 2020. (Photo by Bryn Lennon / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Second placed Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 does donuts after the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on December 13, 2020. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing is presented with his trophy on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Second placed Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 does donuts after the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 13: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 makes a pitstop during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Spectators are seen trackside as the sun sets during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Third place qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in a press conference after qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by James Moy - Pool/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 11: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 11, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace - Pool/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing talks in the Drivers Press Conference after qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by James Moy - Pool/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing speaks with third placed qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: The Red Bull Racing team celebrate the pole position of Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 11: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 11, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates with his team in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team VF-20 Ferrari during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen (L) and Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel compete during the qualifying session on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2020. (Photo by KAMRAN JEBREILI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KAMRAN JEBREILI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 11: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 11, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives during the qualifying session on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2020. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Honda on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Honda on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)
AlphaTauri's French driver Pierre Gasly drives during the third practice session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in the Emirati city of Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2020. (Photo by Bryn Lennon / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
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"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."

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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