Lewis Hamilton believes lockdown has breathed new life into his Formula One career, revealing ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix that he could race on for at least another three years.
Hamilton, 35 years of age and now in his 14th season, will head into his home race as the favourite to win at Silverstone for a seventh time, with his Mercedes team the class of the field once more.
The world champion’s Mercedes contract is due to expire in five months but, on Thursday, he moved to reassure the 140,000 fans banned from attending on Sunday that he will return next year, as well as his intention to extend his career deep into his thirties.
“Firstly I don’t think you can guarantee anything but I plan to be here for sure next year,” said Hamilton, who leads Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by five points in the standings.
“The Covid-19 lockdown, whilst it was a negative, in some ways it gave a lot of life, a lot of energy to focus on some other things, and that time off was a bit of breathing space, and provided a bit of energy to perhaps go longer.
“Ultimately I want to be able to perform at the level I am right now but there is a point at which the physicality and the mental side can tail off.
“I don’t know when that’s going to be. I want to earn my position here and I feel like every year that is not a given just because I’ve world championships under my belt.
“I’ve no divine right to be here. My goal is to continue to deliver for as long as I can. So I do see myself going for at least another two or three years.”
Hamilton’s bid for a record-equalling seventh world championship has been played out against the backdrop of his personal fight against racism.
After dominating the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this month, Hamilton then accused Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director Romain Grosjean of failing to convince the grid to be united in kneeling before the race.
Grosjean spoke to Hamilton for 45 minutes on Tuesday, saying that he wanted to provide a voice for as many as eight drivers who were opposed to the anti-racism stance. But he also apologised to Hamilton for indicating that it might have been the wrong call.
“Romain originally reached out to me and we had a great conversation,” added Hamilton.
“We learned we had more in common than we perhaps thought. He is clearly a caring person. It’s not easy for anybody to admit they’re wrong. And that’s a great first step.
“We’re really working towards the same end goal so I really appreciate that from Romain. And that’s really what it is going to take from all of us; open up our minds, don’t put barriers up, don’t be defensive, be open-minded. Acknowledging that there is an issue is sometimes the first step and then work towards making it better.”
Hamilton has also been in dialogue with F1 chairman Chase Carey and FIA president Jean Todt this week. The pit-lane will open 10 minutes earlier than normal on Sunday to allow the drivers time for a more organised demonstration ahead of the race.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are among those drivers who have stood. Both said here they will not change their position on Sunday.
“Everybody has their own way of expressing it,” said Verstappen. “We are all united in fighting racism and that is the most important thing. It is not about taking a knee or not taking a knee because that is not going to solve the issue.”