The seven-time world champion’s decision to only sign a one-year contract extension in February following drawn-out negotiations cast doubt over his future in F1 beyond the end of the 2021 season.

But Hamilton’s revelation ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix that he volunteered to test Pirelli’s 18-inch wheels because he wanted to help F1’s tyre supplier develop a strong product for 2022 showed he is not thinking about calling it quits just yet.

Reflecting on his recent day of running at Imola as part of Pirelli’s extensive testing programme for next year’s new tyres, the 36-year-old said the 18-inch wheels were a good starting point.

“I don’t ever volunteer for test days,” Hamilton admitted. “And it was probably one of the first ones that I have volunteered for.

“So I immediately regretted it when I woke up in the morning on the day! I was like ‘dammit!’ But no, honestly it was at a really great track to test at, so I enjoyed the day and the weather was good.

“I plan to be here next year and I want to be a part of it, I want to help Pirelli, helping them lean towards having a better product.

“It’s something that the drivers, all of us, have wished for, more performance moving forwards.

“It was important for me to gauge what the starting point is and what differences I can help with, so that from a driver point of view, we have more mechanical grip from the tyres, less degradation.

“I think it was a good test, and obviously it was the first step of the tyres, but it definitely wasn’t a bad place to start.”

When pressed about his strong future hint, Hamilton explained that he is relishing the challenge of going head-to-head with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and stressed he remains determined to make an impact on the sport with regards to inclusivity and diversity.

On Thursday, Hamilton’s Mercedes team announced it has established a new partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers UK, as part of its commitment to increasing diversity within its F1 operation.

“I’m pretty spontaneous, so that could always change,” Hamilton replied when asked about the prospect of staying in F1 beyond the end of 2021. “But I don’t know, I’m enjoying this battle we’re having, it’s getting more exciting, it’s been even more of a challenge.

“I continue to love working with this team, and it’s encouraging to see the steps that for example my team are making towards becoming more inclusive and more diverse.

“Today they already announced one of the initiatives that we have within our organisation and we still have a lot of work to do as a sport.

“There are still many teams that have continued to stay silent. There are many people so far that are not particularly being held accountable.

"There’s still a lot of work to do within this sport and I know that being here, I have more chance of helping change that then not so that’s something I’m looking to do.

“I don’t know how long I can stay but we’ll see.”

 

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