Lewis Hamilton: F1 champion ‘happy to be alive’ after recovering from coronavirus

Formula 1

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer

Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton with Red Bull's Max Verstappen after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton said he was “happy to be alive” after recovering from coronavirus to finish the Formula 1 season with a third place.

The world champion missed the penultimate race in Bahrain a week ago after contracting Covid-19 but recovered in time to race in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton said after the race: “I am destroyed. I do not feel good.

“But I’m happy and grateful I am alive. I live to fight another day and I still managed to finish with a podium.”

The 35-year-old Mercedes driver tested positive for Covid-19 a day after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix last month, was forced to skip the Sakhir GP at the same track a week later, and spent 10 days in isolation before a negative test on Wednesday freed him to travel to Abu Dhabi.

“Covid is no joke,” he said. “I never thought it was. I knew at some stage if I got it it would be tough because there are people out there losing their lives. So I knew it was serious.

“I always find it very strange to see world leaders laughing it off like it is nothing.

“To be able to come back here this weekend, I knew I wouldn’t physically be where I have been the rest of the season but I made it. Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Although he admitted to not feeling well, Hamilton said he was determined to return for Abu Dhabi as long as he tested negative in time.

“It would have been a long gap between Bahrain [race] one and race one [next year],” Hamilton said, “so it was important for me to get back and just get back to the continuity and finish the year strong with the team.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the season finale, with Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas in second place.

‘One of the hardest years’

Hamilton has become the most successful driver in Formula 1 history this year, breaking Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record and equalling the German’s achievements of seven titles.

But he said it had been a difficult year as a result of the restrictions imposed by coronavirus.

The season was initially suspended in March and F1 set up a system of protocols that has kept people apart as much as possible to start it up again.

And the drivers have had to isolate themselves as much as possible in order to minimise the risks of catching the virus and derailing their seasons.

Hamilton said: “This year has been one of the hardest years, if not the hardest, because we have all dealt with isolation.

“We have not been around people; there has been a great loss of life. Life is not normal.

“I am grateful we got to race and these races can take a lot out of you, so for me definitely it is a great achievement for F1 to have got us back racing.

“Thank God for the wellbeing and health of everyone here, the sport has managed to get safely through the year.”

Contract talks imminent

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

Hamilton still has not got a contract for next season. He and team boss Toto Wolff agreed to delay talks until he had clinched the championship, to avoid any distractions or health risks, but Hamilton’s illness meant they had to be delayed again.

Hamilton said: “Hopefully over the next couple of weeks. We would love to get it done before Christmas.

“I plan to be here next year. I want to be here next year. Us as a team have more to do together, more to achieve, both in the sport but even more outside the sport, I think. I hope we can begin this week discussions and hopefully get it tied up before Christmas.”

Wolff said: “That’s gonna happen. There is no reason it shouldn’t happen. We will have this conversation.

“The virus delayed us by another 10 days, two weeks and then we have to sit down maybe virtually, maybe live.”

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