SAKHIR, Bahrain: World champion Lewis Hamilton said he was devastated to miss this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain having tested positive for coronavirus.
"I am devastated that I won't be racing this weekend," he said in a statement.
"Since we started the season in June my team and I have been taking all the precautions we possibly can and following the regulations everywhere we have been in order to stay safe.
"Unfortunately, even though I returned three negative results this past week, I woke up yesterday morning with mild symptoms and requested another test which came back positive.
"I have immediately gone into self-isolation for 10 days."
Hamilton faces a tight race to be able to compete in the season-ending finale in Abu Dhabi the following weekend.
Due to strict COVID-19 rules in Abu Dhabi, all personnel involved in the F1 event must travel from Bahrain on Dec 7.
Yas Island, where the race is being staged on Dec 13, will then effectively be locked down.
"I am gutted not to be able to race this weekend but my priority is to follow the protocols and advice to protect others," said Hamilton.
"I am really lucky that I feel OK with only mild symptoms and will do my best to stay fit and healthy."
Hamilton, 35, sealed his seventh title in Turkey two races ago to equal the all-time record of Michael Schumacher.
LIVING 'LIKE HERMITS'
He then cruised to his 11th win this year and record-increasing 95th victory on Sunday in a race overshadowed by Romain Grosjean's horrific crash, which left the Frenchman receiving hospital treatment for burns after his car exploded in flames after ploughing into a barrier.
"It was such a shocking image to see," said Hamilton, who like all of the drivers had a near 90-minute wait for the restart after the opening-lap crash.
Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas were having to "live like hermits" earlier this season to avoid COVID-19, revealed Mercedes boss Toto Wolff after the team recorded two positive cases at the Eifel Grand Prix in Germany in October.
Wolff said both drivers were confined to their rooms.
"They are the most restricted of the whole group, of the whole team," he said.
"It's certainly not a great situation for them because you need almost to live like a hermit - and that is what they are doing.
"They are at home, they are not going out for dinners and they are not meeting other people. When we do de-briefs, by Zoom or Microsoft Teams, they are not sitting with their engineers in the room."
Mercedes have yet to name a replacement for Hamilton. The team has two reserve drivers, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico.
Vandoorne, who raced for McLaren during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, is currently in Valencia for Formula E pre-season testing. He had already been due to fly to Bahrain before Hamilton's positive test, a team spokesperson said.
Hamilton is the third driver to miss a Grand Prix due to COVID-19 this season, following Sergio Perez at Silverstone and Lance Stroll in Germany.