Lewis Hamilton roared to glory at the British Grand Prix – and then cast his future into doubt by dropping another hint that he could walk away from Formula One at the end of the season.
Hamilton, who toasted his fourth consecutive victory on home soil by performing his now customary crowd-surfing celebration with his army of British supporters at Silverstone, has moved to within just one point of Sebastian Vettel in the race for the title.
The seismic 19-point swing, following a faultless display by Hamilton and Vettel’s late puncture, leaves him back on track to become the first Briton to win four world titles, and one, should he accomplish it, which may be his last.
Hamilton has 18 months to run on his Mercedes deal. But fresh from equalling fellow Briton and two-time world champion Jim Clark with five victories on home soil, Hamilton did little to allay fears this year could prove to be his final hurrah.
“In terms of the contract, I really can’t say what is going to happen six months from now,” said Hamilton, who partied in London on Sunday night following his triumph. “What I do know is I am loving racing. I really feel within myself that I am driving better than I have ever driven. I may have said that in the past, perhaps with less conviction, but right now I know I am at my best and I want to stay there.”
Hamilton, 32, and now in his 11th campaign, was pushed on whether his remarks meant he might not be on the grid next year.
“I just think in life you don’t know what is going to happen,” he replied.
“Right now, I love driving, and in six months you could say, it’s very unlikely, but you can’t say what frame of mind I will be in come Christmas time. Hopefully it is a really good one with a fourth title.
“Even in getting another championship, it will never be the case of now it is time to hang up my gloves. I will always want to win more, even when I do stop. There is something inside of me that will always want to get more. But let’s just focus on trying to get that fourth.”
Hamilton’s suggestion he could stun the sporting world by following his long-term rival Nico Rosberg into retirement are not new. He hinted on the eve of last month’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix that he may walk away at the end of the year only to counter that by stating he had at least one more contract in him.
Hamilton has also been on the record about his admiration for Ferrari, and with Vettel out of contract at the end of the season, one speculative theory is that the two chief title protagonists could trade places.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff however, insists Hamilton will see out his contract.
“Lewis is a Ferrari fan, like we all are, and it’s a team every driver dreams to drive in,” said Wolff, who earlier this season said he thought Hamilton would end his career at Mercedes.
“He’s in a very good place, he drives the fastest car at the moment and that’s a Mercedes. We have a contract that goes for one and-a-half more years and we have the best dynamic in the team, so all the talk outside has zero relevance for me.”