Lewis Hamilton has suggested that he may never return to the top of the F1 world, after watching Sebastian Vettel continue his winning streak even after securing a fourth world championship title.
The German, who has accumulated his crowns in successive seasons since Hamilton and fellow Briton Jenson Button took the title in 2008 and 2009 respectively, extended his unbeaten run to seven races in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, maintaining the dominance he has shown since F1 returned from its summer break in Belgium in late August and continuing to pad his advantage over the field even after securing the championship in India the previous weekend.
Although his comments came in the build-up to the Abu Dhabi race, Hamilton's mood will not have been altered by the fact that he faded from a second row start to finish seventh, behind Paul di Resta's Force India, around a Yas Marina circuit he professes to enjoy.
Even with the financial and technical clout that Mercedes brings to F1, the Briton realises that, with Vettel and Red Bull in irrepressible form, reclaiming the #1 may be a tall order, even with the sport changing to a new engine package in 2014.
“I have confidence we'll be competitive next year, but you never know - maybe circumstances mean that I never win the world championship again,” Hamilton suggested in his column for BBC Sport
, “It could happen in our sport, who knows?”
Despite the pessimistic outlook, however, the 26-year old insists that, while he continues to strive for another title, not winning one would not be the end of the world.
“A while ago, that would have been a scary thought, but it isn't so much any more,” he claimed, “Naturally, I am massively passionate about racing. I love competing, I give absolutely everything every single time I get in the car, I love the ups and downs - I wouldn't want it always to be perfect.
“In any case, life is not all about racing. I want to race as long as I can and win as much as possible, but I also want to contribute to positive things in the world.
“The main thing is I am just massively grateful to be here. To have opened up doors to other cultures and races trying to get into F1 means a lot to me. Now, there are black people at grands prix, as well as Indians and other Asians. I'm massively proud to have been in the privileged position to be a trailblazer in my sport, someone who has broken the mould.”