The reigning world champion led Turn 1 and was clear of the pandemonium behind, which saw a collision of several cars including championship rival Max Verstappen and led to a red flag.
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But Hamilton’s day was changed when, on restart, he was the only rider to line up on the grid on intermediate tires with everyone in the pits for slick tires. Clearly on the wrong rubber, he was forced to pit the next lap in race conditions, dropping him to last.
He then embarked on an impressive fight, which included an intense battle with old foe Fernando Alonso, to save the third.
But after finishing the podium ceremony in which he looked visibly exhausted, Hamilton saw a team doctor, which delayed his appearance in the TV pen and the FIA press conference.
Speaking in the parc fermé immediately after getting out of the car, Hamilton said: “It was really tough. We always make it difficult and crazy to think that we were the only ones on the grid at the start, but these things happen and we learn from them. I gave it my all and had nothing left at the end.
“I’m fine, I got really dizzy and everything got a bit blurry on the podium. I’ve really fought all year to stay healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it’s still, it’s a battle.
“I haven’t told anyone about it but I think [the effects of covid are] persistent. I remember the effects from the moment I had it and the 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 as best I can. Today, who knows what it is? Maybe it’s the hydration, I don’t know, but I definitely haven’t had that experience. worse. “
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With Verstappen 10th, Hamilton regained the championship lead by seven points as F1 entered the summer break.
“We came here this weekend and we really had no idea how it was going to go and given the circumstances today I will take it [the championship lead], ” he said.