Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is “truly grateful for my health and to be alive” after finishing third on his return to action at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton recovered from coronavirus in time to contest the season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit, but admitted during the weekend that he was still suffering the after-effects of contracting the virus and was not “100%” fit.

The seven-time world champion had an unusually low-key run to third place behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Sunday’s finale but said he was happy with his performance all things considered.

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“I don’t think I’ve ever been so blown,” Hamilton said. “My body isn’t feeling great but look on the bright side, I made it through.

“I didn’t think any time last week that I would be here, so, I am just truly grateful for my health and to be alive and, yeah, looking forward to recovering over the next period of time we have and being back into training and getting my body back to where I know it should be.

“You can’t win them all, so, I think considering the past couple of weeks that I’ve had, I am really, generally, happy with the weekend,” he added.

“It’s obviously not 100%, it’s not as good as I’d perhaps have liked but congratulations to Max. That was a really hard race for me.

“All year physically I have been fine, but today I definitely wasn’t so I am just glad it is over. Big, big thank you to the team for their continued support. It’s still a fantastic result to get two podium finishes for us.”

Hamilton had the second Red Bull of Alex Albon bearing down on him in the closing stages but managed to keep the Thai racer at bay, with the seven-time world champion saying he hopes F1’s new regulations for 2022 will result in closer racing.

“The Red Bulls I think this weekend were just too far out of reach for us,” Hamilton explained. "We just couldn’t hold onto the pace they had.

“Fantastic job to see Alex right up there with us, so we were having a two-team battle, which I think is what the sport needs.

“I hope and pray in 2022 the cars are better to follow because I don’t know if it was a boring race to watch, but as soon as you get to within three seconds of someone, you’re just sliding around and in turbulence all the time.

“So, I really hope that what Ross [Brawn, F1 managing director of motorsports] has proposed really makes the difference. We just need good tyres.”