Adamant he won’t retire “any time soon”, Lewis Hamilton admits while he has thought about racing “in red” that he’s happy at home with Mercedes.
Questions have been asked about Hamilton’s future, not only in Formula 1 but also with Mercedes when no contract renewal was forthcoming in the winter.
While team boss Toto Wolff had said he wanted it wrapped up before the season began, heading into race five Hamilton and the Austrian have yet to pen to paper.
That’s led to speculation he’s waiting to see if Mercedes can improve while some pundits have suggested he could be off to Ferrari in a straight swap with Charles Leclerc. And at age 38, there’s always the word ‘retirement’ lurking in the background.
The latter, Hamilton insists, is not on the cards.
“I don’t plan on stopping any time soon,” he told ESPN. “I’m not at the end of my career, I’m not in the downhill slope of my career. I’m in my prime.
“It all depends on how hard I want to work and keep myself in my prime, in terms of physical and mental capability.
“If you look at LeBron [James], if you look at Tom Brady, they have shown that it can be sustained for as long as you are dedicated enough to put the energy and time in.
“Right now, I don’t plan on changing, I only plan on adding to the drive and the motivation and to being better. I’m massively driven.”
Hamilton has wondered about racing’ in red’
But with Mercedes failing to shine this season, the team declaring their early-season W14 will not be a race-winner, it begs the question could Hamilton ply his trade elsewhere.
That elsewhere being Ferrari with former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan saying they’d be a match made “in heaven”.
Hamilton says no, his only plan is continuing with Mercedes.
“I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about ending my career anywhere else,” he said.
“I started at McLaren, I’d like to think I’ll always be a part of the McLaren family, I started there when I was 13 years old [as a junior driver], so I thought about what it would look like if I was at McLaren one day.
“I thought about and watched the Ferrari drivers on the screens at the track and of course you wonder what it would be like to be in red… But then I go to my team, to Mercedes, and this is my home.
“I’m happy where I am. I haven’t signed a contract yet, but we are working on one.”
‘Very special’ relationship with Toto Wolff
The Briton also talked up his relationship with Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff, the Austrian has been his team boss for over a decade.
“The relationship is very special,” he declared. “We have both lifted each other up, we’ve helped each other elevate as individuals, both through our careers, our business, and in how we operate in our outside lives and worlds.
“I think we have been able to really confide in each other and be open and honest. Within business and within industries it is very difficult to be open with people, because it always seems like there is someone ready to stab you in the back.
“And I think that’s the trust thing that we have that it’s never been the case. He has welcomed me into his family and welcomed my family into our team.
“When I look at other drivers who have jumped from a team after one season, I think you’ve not given anyone a chance to really show what they can do. And you can’t build a relationship in one year with such a huge organisation.
“I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of that and have that experience. So there is a lot of love here, this team has got such a winning mindset and I need to be somewhere where there is a winning mindset because that’s what I have.”
‘No panic’ getting a new deal over the line
Despite rumours Leclerc is waiting in the wings, the seven-time World Champion says neither he nor Wolff are in a rush to get a new deal over the line.
“There is no panic [over the contract], we will get to it, neither of us feel pressure, we are always honest,” he said. “So, if Toto was talking to someone he would tell me and vice-a-versa.
“I’ve never ever in my whole time gone and spoken behind a team’s back to someone else to see if I can get them to raise the bar so that he has to raise his bar – I’ve never played that game, and he hasn’t either. So, we have always been straight shooters.
‘But I think ultimately having such a close relationship makes it hard sometimes having hard business discussions, because emotion is involved and we have to be very careful to step out of the circle, put the relationship aside and focus on business and what’s best for us both business wise. But we have managed to find that balance really well over the years.”
As for the duration, “I’m thinking long term. I don’t want to stay here for another year. I want to stay longer.”