Lewis Hamilton says his struggles to third place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are further evidence that COVID-19 “is no joke.”

The world champion missed the penultimate race of the year after testing positive for the virus and was suffering from mild symptoms but managed to get the all-clear to return for the final round. After admitting he was expecting to find it tough physically after qualifying, Hamilton confirmed the race was a challenge as he had a quiet run to third place.

“COVID is no joke,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. “I never ever thought it was from the get-go this year and I knew that if some stage I got it then it would be tough, because there are people out there losing their lives so I know it’s serious. I always found it very strange when you see world leaders laughing it off like it’s nothing…

“I’m so grateful that I was able to come here this weekend. I knew that I wouldn’t physically be where I’ve been the whole rest of the season but I made it. When there’s a will there’s a way.

“I’m destroyed. I don’t feel good but I’m happy, I’m grateful I’m alive and I live to fight another day. And I still managed to finish off the season with a podium, so I’m thankful to the team that I can contribute.”

With Max Verstappen dominating the race and Alex Albon close behind the Mercedes pair at the finish, Hamilton says Albon’s performance shows how strong Red Bull was in Abu Dhabi.

“It was the best I could do. Congrats to Max — it’s a great result, a great drive from him all weekend. A great showing that Red Bull has a solid car. As far as I’m aware we haven’t had any changes to our engine, so it’s just true pace from them, rather than us taking a step back. They worked so hard through the year so congrats to him and his team.

“It’s not very easy to overtake through this circuit and I think it showed — we were all relatively close to each other, apart from Max. He pulled away, but even Alex was right behind me. It shows the strength that they had today. I made it through and still finished off relatively strong in terms of consistency, not making mistakes in the season. I’m glad it’s done.”