Lewis Hamilton has said he is focused on winning his fourth Formula One world championship rather than his long-term future in the sport, after he drove to a dominant victory in Sunday’s British Grand Prix. He won at Silverstone with an inch-perfect run from pole to flag, while his title rival Sebastian Vettel suffered a puncture on the penultimate lap and could finish only in seventh. Vettel had enjoyed a 20-point lead in the championship but now the British driver trails him by a single point.
Hamilton has won two of his three world championships with Mercedes, in 2014 and 2015 and has a contract with the team that runs until the end of the 2018 season. This year’s car is at the front of the field again and proved at Silverstone that it is developing very strongly. Hamilton would not confirm his plans for beyond next year but his obvious pleasure behind the wheel suggests he is in no hurry to stop racing.
“When you set a goal and succeed and have this belief inside of you, it is such a great feeling,” he said. “I don’t know why I drive as I do but I just feel blessed that I do. The happiest I am except when I am with my family is when I have the car on a knife edge.
“In terms of contracts I can’t really say what is going to happen six months from now except to say I am loving racing. I am driving better than I have ever driven. I have said that in the past, perhaps with less conviction but within myself I know that right now I am at my best and I want to stay there.”
There has been speculation on potential shifts in the driver market at the end of this season, with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen’s contracts up at Ferrari and Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas only on a one year deal at Mercedes. But the 2019 season is also a factor. Alongside Hamilton, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and potentially Max Verstappen’s availability is playing a part in the longer term process.
Hamilton, however, insisted this season and the title remained his goal. In reference to potentially retiring he said: “I don’t know what is going to happen. Right now I love driving and you could say it’s unlikely but you can’t say what frame of mind I will be in come Christmas.
“Hopefully it will be really good with a fourth title. Even getting another championship, it would never be a case of now it is time to hang up my gloves. I will always want to win more, even when I do stop. I’m just focused on getting that fourth.”
Hamilton now has four wins this season, one more than Vettel, and his victory at Silverstone was a strong comeback after two difficult meetings. He lost a likely win in Baku after he was forced to pit with a loose head rest and a grid penalty due to a gearbox change cost him at the last round in Austria. He believed that after early-season issues with finding the right set up and balance for the car, Mercedes were firmly on the front foot in their battle with Ferrari, having narrowed the gap in the title chase.
“Moving on to the next race strategy wise we are in a much stronger position not having that deficit,” he said. “The pendulum has swung our way this weekend. More things will come up in the future but the team is energised. I hope we can take that into the next races.”
Certainly the form he showed at Silverstone, where he has now won five times, suggests Hamilton’s team have stolen a march in the development fight with Ferrari, who they now lead by 55 points in the constructors’ championship. Hamilton was over half a second quicker in qualifying – the largest margin any driver has enjoyed on a Saturday this season and in the race when looking to put clean air between himself and Raikkonen in the first third at one point he extended his lead by six seconds in just five laps.
Hamilton has also won five times at the next round in Budapest, the last before F1’s summer break but the team’s executive director Toto Wolff was cautious about assuming they would necessarily dominate again in Hungary.
“He has driven great in Hungary but you need to have a car that is capable of doing so,” he said. “In Sochi it didn’t work out for him and Monaco was a big setback. With these new regulations it is not set in stone that it worked like it has in the past. Going into the summer break with a lead would be nice but there was a famous Austrian skier who always had the best sector times but he never won the world championship. I would like to have the lead before the holiday but it doesn’t mean anything for the world championship.”