Formula One has an end-of-term feel to it ahead of the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi but Friday felt like a return to school for seven times champion Lewis Hamilton after being laid low by COVID-19.
The Mercedes driver, who wrapped up his seventh championship in Turkey last month, missed the Sakhir Grand Prix after going into isolation in Bahrain and was given the all-clear to race again only on Thursday.
“I was very, very happy and grateful this morning just to be back here and obviously to be able to try and finish off this season strong,” the Briton told Sky television.
“Super excited. It felt like a first day back at school kind of thing. It definitely took a minute to get back used to it for the first session, and then the second one still getting my bearings.”
Hamilton said the team had tested developments for next season.
The Sakhir GP was the first Hamilton has missed in his F1 career as he was replaced by compatriot George Russell, who might have won but for Mercedes bungling a pitstop and then having a late puncture.
Hamilton said 22-year-old Russell, who has returned to Williams, had done an amazing job.
“I don’t think I need to do any more to seal what I’ve done,” said Hamilton, winner of 11 of the 16 races so far.
“I just want to come here and enjoy it this weekend, enjoy what I do. It’s been a huge amount of work for everyone back at the factories and it’s been a privilege to race with them this year.
“We don’t have anything to prove this weekend, I don’t feel I have anything to prove, just here to have some fun.”