I’m not the retiring type, insists Lewis
As rumours about his future swirl around the Baku City Circuit, Lewis Hamilton grins as he pulls up a chair in the Mercedes hospitality suite.
In an interview last week, Hamilton hinted he was about to drive off into the sunset.
‘My destiny is in my own hands,’ he said then. ‘I can decide to stop at the end of this year. I don’t know what I’m going to do.’
But as we sit down ahead of tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, it quickly becomes clear that nothing could be further from the Briton’s mind.
‘I don’t even remember discussing that,’ says Hamilton. ‘It’s not something I’m thinking about right now.
‘I could easily do another threeyear contract if I wanted to. I reckon I could go another one after that too, but at least one more.
‘I’m 32 and I feel like I’m on the pivot now. I don’t feel like I’m one of the older ones, I still feel like I’m in my prime or even on the verge of my prime. The interesting thing is how long I can make the prime last.’
Hamilton cut an emotional figure at the last race in Canada after matching Ayrton senna’s tally of 65 career pole positions.
With three to his name, Hamilton also has the same number of world titles as his Brazilian hero. But far from easing off, the Mercedes driver is intent on pressing the accelerator again.
‘I always wanted to emulate Ayrton and now I have,’ says Hamilton. ‘But then you set your sights on new goals.
‘People ask me if I want to emulate Michael (schumacher), but I never really had a desire to get seven world titles and it still doesn’t really tickle my fancy.
‘I think about (Juan Manuel) Fangio’s five and that sounds pretty good. But then (sebastian) Vettel’s got four so if I get five he could equal that and then I’ve got to get six.
‘I’m grateful for the ones I have but I want more. I still want two more. I feel like I have more potential and it’s a constant journey to discover what that potential is.
‘It’s just how much time you’re willing to devote to it. If you look at Nico (Rosberg) he didn’t want to give any more of his life to being a racing driver but I’ll always be a racing driver at heart.’
Hamilton pauses before hailing new team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Rosberg’s replacement. ‘There’s a lot more harmony in the team than there has been before with Valtteri here,’ says Hamilton. ‘We get on very well, he’s mature and a really positive light on the team.
‘We’re very respectful when the other is successful and he’s probably the first real team-mate I’ve ever had. There’s just zero hard feelings between us.’
Further adding to that harmony and stoking Hamilton is Mercedes’ fight with Ferrari. That resumes here after Hamilton cut Vettel’s lead in the drivers’ standings to 12 points in Canada.
Hamilton and Vettel may not have it all their own way this weekend though, as Max Verstappen topped both of yesterday’s practice sessions in Baku. But the Red Bull driver’s joy was short-lived as he crashed in the final minute.
It was a fitting conclusion to an error-strewn day which was twice halted after crashes for sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer.
Those shunts meant Hamilton failed to set a time on the quicker supersoft tyres and he ended the day a second off the pace in 10th.
Fortress Hamilton: Mercedes’ No 1 Lewis Hamilton in practice in Azerbaijan yesterday