Coulthard doubts Hamilton will quit after 2021

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas Mercedes silly season

Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas

Lewis Hamilton would have already told us if 2021 was to be his final season, according to David Coulthard.

After months of speculation, Hamilton signed a one-year deal to continue with Mercedes, giving the seven-time World Champion the opportunity to race for the record of eight titles.

Both the driver and Mercedes said the reason for the one-year deal was time, they wanted something set in stone sooner rather than later and they would begin 2022 talks early this season.

There, however, was still speculation the one-year deal is because Hamilton wants to retire at the end of 2021, eight titles and out.

According to Martin Brundle, though, the Briton was “grumpy” about the duration and “not super-happy with the way the negotiations have worked out at Mercedes”.

That implies he wanted a longer deal and is not ready to quit.

Coulthard, another former driver, says if he was, he probably would not have shown up for pre-season testing.

“If he truly believed it was time [to quit now], he would not have been in Bahrain for pre-season testing,” DC told The Sun.

“I think he has inner peace and if he had that feeling, we would have had that announcement that he was leaving.

“But when he does decide that’s it, I don’t believe he will drive one more lap in a racing car. I very much doubt you will see him rocking up at Le Mans or anything like that.

“You know when to quit when you wake up one day, or even after a lap. Niki Lauda knew during a lap in Canada, James Hunt walked away mid-season.

“In my case, I got the realisation at the beginning of a 2008 pre-season test. I jumped in the car with hopes and desires that we’d made a big step forward and it just didn’t feel like it.

“Having had 14 previous seasons and known how long it takes to develop a car, that was the time I thought it was not going to be a winning year.

“I remember Mark Webber asking me how I knew when it was enough. I knew it was time to stop having asked me the question.

“It’s like any relationship, you just knew in your heart it’s the right time. You just know.”

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W12

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Pre-season testing did not go to plan for Mercedes with reliability issues and a “snappy and unforgiving” car costing them track time.

Hamilton, a driver who does not often make mistakes, twice spun.

Mercedes finished bottom of the lap count with Hamilton’s fastest time only good enough for fifth place, a full second down on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Coulthard, while acknowledging it was not a “smooth” test for Mercedes, believes they will bounce back.

“I was reading all the reviews of testing but you will find out where you are when you get to the first race weekend,” said the Scot.

“Now, of course, you get an indication about reliability and general form from testing but nothing you could go to the bookies with.

“So, what do I think? It clearly wasn’t a smooth few days as they would have liked and may well have ticked a nerve.

“But we have to remember as well, this isn’t his first pre-season rodeo.

“He has done it all before and, depending on his mood, will depend on if he engages with the media.

“It’s been an unusual route to this point in terms of the contract being so late in being announced.

“But I don’t think with Lewis you can use historical trend. He is very much his own man and at this stage of his career he has found a way of operating.

“I don’t doubt for one moment that if he has a sniff of performance then he wouldn’t be the man who can deliver it.

“Just when you think he’s down, he bounced back, a bit like Muhammad Ali when he was doing the old rope-a-dope. He’s not as easy to read as the others.”

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