Lewis Hamilton has twin targets for this year in Formula 1 – to emulate the title feat of his hero Ayrton Senna and land a bumper new pay deal with Mercedes.
Hamilton finally won his second world championship last season, six years after claiming his debut crown in 2008, and he did so in dominant fashion by winning 11 of the 19 grands prix.
But, to be recognised as one of the sport’s greats, it is generally accepted that three is the magic number.
For Hamilton, that would see him not only match the haul of Senna, but also join Sir Jackie Stewart as the most successful Briton in F1 history.
“Ayrton won three and, growing up, the greats had three,” Hamilton said. “I’ve always said since I joined Formula 1 that I wanted to emulate Ayrton.
“You think of the car he drove and the team he drove for, the style in which he won races and the way he connected with people. So it would be pretty awesome to do that [win a third title] and I am massively driven for this next one.
“Who knows how long it will take, but one thing which gives me a lot of confidence is I know there is no other team that could give me a greater opportunity.”
In light of that last remark, it seems certain the 30-year-old will sign a new deal at some point this season, with negotiations now under way.
Talks were put on hold last year to allow Hamilton, now in the final 12 months of a three-year deal, to focus on his championship bid.
Although Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff suggested there would be an early resolution once the season had finished, it has not yet transpired.
But, now negotiating his own contract as he is without management, Hamilton is confident discussions will not drag on.
“Last year there was excitement at one point to get it done around Russia, but I said, ‘guys, this is the most important period of my life. I don’t want to think of anything else’,” Hamilton said.
“Contracts and stuff can be stressful, so I was telling them all I wanted to do was win the championship. I’m still under contract this year so we’ve time. It’s not something I have to rush to satisfy anyone else. We just have to make sure it works for the both of us.
“The confidence we give each other is that they want to continue with me and vice-versa, but it’s been like that for ages.
“But we’re in talks and in the near future it will be sorted.”
Hamilton will step behind the wheel of this year’s title-challenging car on the second day of the first pre-season test in Jerez on Tuesday.
He will be hoping for as trouble-free a day as team-mate Nico Rosberg, who racked up 157 laps on Sunday – a new F1 record for the first day of a test.
Nico Rosberg lost out in the 2014 title race after leading for the majority of the 2014 campaign before Mercedes team-mate Hamilton overhauled him and sealed the Championship at the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi.
Rosberg, who racked up a new record at Jerez on Sunday by completing 157 laps on the opening day of the pre-season test, said: “I’m always motivated, but it’s natural to have an extra little bit of something because of the memories from last year.
“I know how awesome it is to win races, and I know how great it feels to beat Lewis, so all these things provide me with a little extra bit of motivation.”
Rosberg said he had “a good feeling” after his first outing in this year’s Mercedes. He also revealed he had been working on breathing techniques. he said: “When we go through fast corners because there is so much g-force you hold your breath, you don’t breathe properly, so I tried to work on that.”