Lewis Hamilton has shrugged off Bernie Ecclestone’s comments about his desire to win a fifth Formula 1 world title and says by the end of the season he’ll know if his level of performance has dropped.

The reigning Formula 1 world champion has endured a couple of tricky races suffering with finding the sweet spot with the Pirelli tyres which has been compounded by his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas’s upturn in form plus the performance jump from both Ferrari and Red Bull.

Hamilton is currently on his longest winless stretch since 2016 when he failed to win in eight consecutive races (counting back to include the final three race of 2015) which has led former F1 supremo Ecclestone to query the British driver’s current motivation.

Ecclestone says he felt Hamilton was “fed up” with F1 by stating he is “not the racer he was”, while also praising his speed and current record in the sport, which Hamilton has ignored during his preparations for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

During the post-qualifying press conference, after Hamilton claimed second on the grid for the Azerbaijan race behind F1 championship leader and pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel, the Mercedes driver refused to respond to Ecclestone’s jibe or whether he’s competing at his top level of performance.

“We’ll see at the end of the year,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has laughed off the comments as another “hand grenade” from Ecclestone to stoke up media headlines in F1.

Azerbaijan GP F1 2018 Preview

The defending F1 world champion’s last victory came over six months ago at the 2017 United States Grand Prix while he narrowly missed out at the 2018 season opener in Australia after Mercedes misjudged a time gap needed to Vettel during a virtual safety car period.

Hamilton currently sits in second place in the F1 drivers’ world championship and nine points behind Vettel after the opening three races.