Lewis Hamilton dismisses talk of walking away from Formula One
Lewis Hamilton believes he can race on until he is 40 after rejecting his own suggestion that he could stun Formula One by retiring at the end of the season.
In an interview published on the eve of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Hamilton, who trails championship leader Sebastian Vettel by 12 points, hinted that he may turn his back on motor racing and follow his long-term rival Nico Rosberg into retirement.
Hamilton, 32, has lofty ambitions of harbouring a music career. He also revealed here his bucket list in which he hopes to scale Mount Everest, become a better chef, and learn another language.
But it would appear as though the French lessons will have to wait. Formula One, it seems, will forever be Hamilton's mother tongue.
"I could easily do another three-year contract if I wanted to and I reckon I could go on for another one after that," said Hamilton, whose £30million-a-year-deal with Mercedes expires next season.
"If you look at Nico he didn't want to give any more of his life to committing to being a racing driver, but I'll always be a racing driver at heart so that's quite an easy decision.
"People ask me what's motivating you? I still want more. I still want two championships. I always wanted to emulate Senna, but then you set your sights on new goals, new challenges and new horizons so that's really the discovery phase.
"When I think about (Juan Manuel) Fangio, five titles sounds pretty good. Vettel's only one away from five so if I get to five he could easily equal that, and then I've got to get six.
"The human race is a greedy kind, and we always want more. For me, it's not like I want more, but I feel like I have more potential, and I feel like it's a constant journey to discover just what that potential is. There's no real limit to what we can achieve. The limit is a state of mind."
Hamilton's state of mind - one that is always under question given his whirlwind lifestyle - is far removed from recent seasons and the travails of his toxic rivalry with Rosberg. The former childhood friends no longer share any sort of bond, and the mere mention of the German's name prickles Hamilton's ears.
But Rosberg's sudden retirement - just five days after winning his maiden championship - coupled with Valtteri Bottas' arrival at Mercedes and this year's title battle against Vettel has changed the Briton.
The defeats do not appear to taste as bitter. Indeed his mood after qualifying only 13th at Monaco before latterly finishing seventh - a round which could yet prove pivotal should he lose this year's title - was one of a carefree individual.
Hamilton's boss Toto Wolff even believes the Stevenage-born racer is in the best mental shape he has ever been since he severed ties with McLaren and moved to Mercedes more than five years ago.
"I've been in a good place for years with the team so I don't feel any different to past times," countered Hamilton, who finished only 10th fastest in practice on Friday. "But there's a lot more harmony in the team than there has been before.
"These engineers and mechanics know that if they bring that extra five per cent it can make the difference between being first or second.
"In the past when we finished one-two all the time there was no need. It was like 'if I work an extra 15 minutes, or half an hour it's not going to make a difference as we're still going to be ahead'.
"Now they know that if they don't bring it we may not win the race so there's a completely different dynamic within the whole team. I'm feeling that and enjoying it, too."
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