Lewis Hamilton has confirmed he could continue racing for another five years, saying he can’t retire from Formula 1 while there’s still work to be done on creating a “more open and inclusive environment”.
Hamilton is out of contract at the end of next season, when he’ll turn 38 years old after 17 years competing in Formula 1.
His seat is a potential target for a reported Daniel Ricciardo succession plan, with the Australian considering taking up a position as a Mercedes reserve driver next season in the hope of manoeuvring into a competitive seat in 2024.
Ricciardo said on Thursday that he was in no rush to decide his future, but French media have reported he’s in advanced discussions with the German marque about a role.
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With George Russell accepted as being the long-term future of Mercedes, the plan would rely on Hamilton retiring from the sport.
But last week Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton had already raised the prospect of extending his contract to as far as the end of 2028, which would scupper Ricciardo’s plan.
Speaking to reporters in Japan, Hamilton didn’t deny a five-year deal was on the cards, saying that he was fit and enthusiastic enough to continue long term.
“Possibly yes,” he said of the prospect of a half-decade deal. “I’m feeling good. I love what I’m doing.
“I know what I want to do. I plan on staying longer. It’s just not set in stone how long.
“We have a lot of work to do, a lot to achieve still, so I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.
“I plan on staying with Mercedes for the rest of my life, that’s definite. It’s more figuring out what we are going to do down the line, even beyond racing.
“I feel healthier than I have ever been just because of what I eat and how I prepare myself.
“And I love racing. I’ve been doing it since as long as I can remember, since I was five years old, and that’s not going to go away.
“If I’m still fit and able to focus, why would I stop?”
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Hamilton reportedly considered giving up on the sport during the off-season after being denied the championship ins controversial circumstances in Abu Dhabi.
After deciding to continue, he said he didn’t want the contentious end of the 2021 season to define his career.
In Japan, however, he said his motivation to continue was unrelated to his rivalry with Max Verstappen, denying that he was driven to overcome the Dutchman’s competitiveness.
“[It means] less than you’d think,” he said. “I think it’s more just where I am in life. I’ve got great things happening outside, I’ve got a lot of freedom to be able to do things, I’m building things outside of the sport with my foundation that I’ve just started, and it’s going to take a lot of work.
“There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in this sport, and I can’t retire now, because I’m only just embarking in helping shift and create a more open and inclusive environment here in this sport, and I’ve got to stay to help that continue.
“I want to be building with Mercedes, and there is a lot that Mercedes can do.
“It’s not just a car manufacturer; it provides so many jobs for so many people and it has such a powerful platform to really shift narratives and it has a place where it can have a really positive impact on the environment.
“There’s loads of things that we can do together, and I want to be a part of that. I want to be part of that shift and work process with Mercedes far beyond races and championships, but for now it’s to win world championships, and that’s the immediate focus.”