Lewis Hamilton said his newly signed one-year deal with Mercedes should not be seen as him keeping the door open to leave Formula One at the end of the year.
Hamilton and Mercedes only agreed his 2021 extension earlier this year, although the final duration was much shorter than most had anticipated. Hamilton is looking to win a record eighth Formula One title this year.
The single-year extension has opened speculation over Hamilton’s future and whether Mercedes might go into next season’s rule change looking for a replacement for the seven-time world champion.
Ahead of this weekend’s season opener, the Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton said he will not leave F1 the moment he stops having the best car on the grid.
“The position I’m in has nothing to do with whether we are or are not winning a championship,” Hamilton said. “I don’t quit when the going gets tough.
“I wanted a one-year deal. I said to Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] 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 than I have for a long time.
“I just said to Bono [Mercedes race engineer Peter Bonnington] 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.”
When asked if he goes into this year thinking it could be his last in F1, he replied: “No, in the current position I am in I don’t feel like this is the end.
“Of course, we have 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 the next eight months or so will let me know and I’ll find out if I’m ready to stop or not.
“I don’t think I will, personally. But you never know.” As with every F1 race this year, the Bahrain Grand Prix will be broadcast live on ESPN in the U.S.