Amidst all the excitement of yesterday’s surprise Hungarian Grand Prix podium was cause for concern. Lewis Hamilton finished third after an impressive recovery following a botched call to remain on wet tires for the restart, while the rest of the field changed to drys. That result may ultimately be bumped up to second depending on what happens with Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification.
There was reason for Hamilton to be content yet disappointed, as it was the decision not to swap rubber that cost him and his team the victory. We’ve seen the reigning champ in these scenarios before, and he’s typically a little despondent and short on words, as you’d expect.
But Hamilton’s fatigue after this particular race seemed more pronounced, even if he did have to battle Fernando Alonso over several laps to claw back that podium spot. He seemed winded during his interview and slow in his movements, particularly when standing alongside the other top finishers, hoisting his third-place trophy and spraying champagne. He didn’t look well at all, and after the race he provided a little more insight as to why that was, courtesy of Formula 1:
Expanding on how he felt after arriving late to the post-race press conference, Hamilton said he couldn’t rule out his symptoms being caused by ‘long covid’, the British driver having missed a race after contracting Covid 19 late last year.
“I’m ok, had real big dizziness and everything got a bit blurry on the podium. I’ve been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it’s still, it’s a battle.”
Hamilton said he went to see Mercedes’ team doctor after the event. He suspects his fatigue could’ve been caused by the prolonged effects of COVID-19, which he tested positive for in December.
“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.”
Stories like Hamilton’s are not at all abnormal for athletes who have long since recovered from a bout with the illness. Mohammed Bamba and Jayson Tatum, NBA players who reported positive tests over the winter with no symptoms, represent two of the many pro-level athletes that have since struggled to keep up with their conditioning, as SBNation’s Sydney Umeri reported in March. They’re both only 23; Lewis Hamilton is 36.
To see competitors at the top of their respective games and in peak physical fitness struggle with training and stamina months after getting COVID-19 is a sobering reminder that the disease is far more insidious than it might look from the outside. Even if you feel relatively well during that positive diagnosis, it can stick with you well beyond that two-week quarantine period — it doesn’t matter if you’re otherwise perfectly healthy. It’s just another reason to get vaccinated if you’re not already.
Given that Hamilton says this is the second time he’s experienced this, after the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, here’s hoping he feels better throughout the remainder of the season.