Lewis Hamilton has said he feels “destroyed” by the coronavirus and is just “happy to be alive” after his first F1 race since testing positive for COVID-19.
The 35-year-old uncharacteristically finished third in his Mercedes at the 55-lap Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday to close off his seventh title-winning season – and admitted he is still feeling the effects.
After qualifying on Saturday he had said it was “not the usual me” and that he still had “some feeling within my lungs” following his battle with COVID-19.
“I’m destroyed. I do not feel good,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1’s Natalie Pinkham after the race.
“But I’m happy, I’m grateful. I’m alive, and I live to fight another day.
“I still managed to finish off the season with a podium so I’m thankful to the team that I was able to contribute.”
He added: “Considering the past couple of weeks I’ve had I really am generally happy with the weekend. That was a really hard race for me physically. All the year physically I’ve been fine but today I definitely wasn’t.
“I don’t think I have ever been so blown. I am just glad it is over. My body is not feeling great but I have to look on the bright side. I made it through, and I didn’t think at any period last week that I would be here.
“I am really just truly grateful for my health, to be alive, and looking forward to recovering over the period we are off, and then getting my body back to where I know it should be.”
Hamilton tested positive for the virus on 30 November and missed the penultimate race of the season in Bahrain.
The British driver had to isolate in his hotel for 10 days, where he suffered mild symptoms, before returning negative results prior to the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Over the weekend, Hamilton vowed not to ignore pleas to improve human rights in Bahrain, saying he had been moved by a letter from the son of a man facing the death penalty there.
Campaigners sent letters to the F1 champion last month in the run-up to the Bahrain GP, which Hamilton said he had needed time to read and digest.
“Ultimately, it isn’t necessarily my responsibility to speak out on the places that I don’t know everything about but I think we together always have to work to push for change and improvements,” he said.
“I think the saddest thing for me was that there is a young man on death row and it’s not clear… when his son writes me a letter, that really hits home. All lives matter. I think there’s definitely work to be done in the background.
“I definitely won’t let it go unnoticed,” he added, saying that he had hoped to meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince but testing positive for COVID-19 had ruled that out.
Hamilton will have 95 days before he opens his bid to become a record-breaking eight-time world champion at the curtain-raiser in Melbourne, Australia, set for 21 March next year.
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