I’m not the re­tir­ing type, in­sists Lewis

Daily Mail - - Formula One — Azerbaijan Grand Prix - JOE DOWNES re­ports from Baku @jre­downes

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.

AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Fortress Hamil­ton: Mercedes’ No 1 Lewis Hamil­ton in prac­tice in Azer­bai­jan yes­ter­day

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