Addressing the media in Bahrain ahead of this weekend’s season-opening race, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton did not sound like a driver thinking about quitting Formula 1 any time soon.

Speculation and debate about Hamilton’s future has continued after the 36-year-old only extended his current deal to continue racing for Mercedes throughout the 2021 season.

The agreement concluded a long-running saga that spanned the majority of 2020 and featured several delays before a contract was eventually finalised just five weeks before pre-season testing got underway in Bahrain.

The nature of Hamilton’s short-term deal left some doubt over his motivation to continue in F1, even if the seven-time world champion insisted at Mercedes’ launch of its W12 car that any decision over racing on in 2022 and beyond would not be dictated by whether he successfully clinches an unprecedented eighth world title this year.

Speaking in today’s FIA press conference ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton made it clear that he has no intention to hang up his helmet at the end of 2021.

"In the current position I’m in I don’t feel like this is the end,” Hamilton said.

“Of course, we’ve got these changes that are happening next year, which are exciting. I think this looks like it could be the most exciting season yet; we’ve got new teams, new formats and it’s closer.

“I don’t feel like I’m at the end. But only in the next eight months or so I’ll find out whether I’m ready to stop or not. I don’t think I will, personally, but you never know.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already stressed he would like to begin talks with his star driver on his next contract “much earlier” to avoid a repeat of the 11th-hour deal completed this year, and Hamilton - who is set to play an integral role in the 2022 driver market - is also determined to get negotiations underway sooner rather than later.

“The position I’m in has nothing to do with whether we are or are not winning a championship,” Hamilton explained. “I don’t quit when the going gets tough.

“I wanted a one-year deal, and yes, I said to Toto that, if we are to work on the future together, we should talk about it much earlier than the January before the season starts.

“I’m fully-committed to this sport. This sport, I think, is in the best place it’s been in terms of steps we are taking and what F1 is doing in terms of technology and creating a platform to work towards a better world.

“I love what I’m doing and I arrive more excited [to this season] than I have for a long time. I just said to Bono [Hamilton’s race engineer] that I’m excited to get going and we are going to have a really great battle one way or another. That’s what I’ve always loved.”

Mercedes enters the new campaign seemingly on the back foot after a troubled pre-season test in which its running was hampered by reliability gremlins and instability issues reported by both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas regarding the rear-end of the W12.

The Brackley-based outfit arrives in Bahrain convinced that it is currently lagging behind nearest rivals Red Bull, who in turn have repeatedly played down its early favourites tag.

Despite Mercedes’ difficult winter test, Hamilton said that going into the unknown with the prospect of the closest F1 title battle in years is only spurring him on further.

“Each year it’s a little bit of an unknown but of course more often we have a better feeling of what’s happening with our car,” he added.

“It’s massively exciting for us as a team. We are currently not the fastest. And how are we going to work together, how are we going to unite in order to get to where we want to be?

“For me, I’m super-excited for that challenge. Seeing some of the other teams close, I think it’s going to be great for fans. But I love that collaboration with the men and women in my team and trying to get to a common goal.”



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