Lewis Hamilton explained that he is still feeling the after-effects of coronavirus after producing an incredible fightback at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who started on pole as he chased a 100th Formula 1® race win in his stellar career, had to charge up the field after a mistake following a restart – a red flag having come out after Valtteri Bottas caused an early crash.
Five drivers were forced to retire early, with Bottas handed a five-place grid penalty for the next grand prix in Belgium at the end of August, but by the time the remaining competitors had finished a formation lap, the rain which had been around at the start had cleared and the track was dry.
Hamilton, however, elected not to change his tyres, so started on his own from the grid while the others pitted. By the time he had rectified his mistake he was last, but a mighty effort saw him clinch third place behind Sebastian Vettel and unlikely winner Esteban Ocon.
The seven-time world champion now leads Max Verstappen, who finished 10th after suffering damage in the earlier crash, in the standings, though Hamilton was handed a further boost late on Sunday when Vettel was retrospectively disqualified for not having enough fuel left in his car at the end of the race. Aston Martin announced they plan to appeal that decision.
However, during the podium presentation, Hamilton looked visibly exhausted and even struggled to hold up the bottle of champagne handed to him. He then saw Mercedes' team doctor and missed some of his post-race media duties.
"I'm ok, had real big dizziness and everything got a bit blurry on the podium," Hamilton, who contracted COVID-19 in December last year, told a news conference.
"I've been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it's still a battle.
"I haven't spoken to anyone about it, but I think [the effects of covid are] lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it and training has been different since then. The level of fatigue you get is different and it's a real challenge.
"I continue to train and prepare the best way I can. Today, who knows what it is? Maybe it's hydration, I don't know, but I've definitely not had this experience. Had something similar at Silverstone but this is way worse."
When asked why he did not to pit at the end of the formation lap, Hamilton said: "Through the formation lap I was just giving the team information. I mean, it was dry through all the corners and I kept telling them 'it's dry, dry, dry, dry' but they said just to stay out.
"I don't really understand but I'm sure it's definitely a mistake from us all but we win and lose as a team and we bear the burden of the mistake together and we just keep fighting, so the team did an amazing job with the strategy, with pitstops, and I just had to make it work out there."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the team – who now lead the constructors' championship – made the right call, however.
"To be honest, I think we did absolutely the right thing," said Wolff. "As a leading car it's always difficult to take the decision.
"These things can happen – I stand absolutely behind the decision to stay out – and that's why I'm fine."