Lewis Hamilton: "I'm not done yet. I've got more to achieve"
When Lewis Hamilton eventually sits down to discuss a new contract with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, he knows it will be for the right reasons that he wants to continue in Formula 1.
One year ago, the bitterness of his title defeat to Max Verstappen as a result of the events that had unfolded in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2021 had cast a shadow of uncertainty over Hamilton's future. He boycotted the FIA awards gala, shunned social media, and avoided discussing motorsport altogether for a considerable period of time.
Hamilton returned, buoyed by a new era of aerodynamic regulations, rather than an overwhelming desire to right whatever wrongs he believed had transpired courtesy of former FIA race director Michael Masi's freestyle calls following the introduction of a late-race safety car at the Yas Island circuit.
If Hamilton had hoped for instant retribution via a record eighth championship, such ambition was rapidly shattered. When the W13 took to the track, it became evident Mercedes had interpreted the new rules with a development direction that took months to dial out, by which time only a respectable conclusion to the season was within reach.
Even before then, however, Hamilton had made clear his desire to extend his current deal beyond next season's expiry, seemingly setting himself up to race into his 40s. In an interview with us, Hamilton concedes the end of 2021 was in his thinking when he made the decision, but primarily, he feels he has so much more to achieve off track, not just on it.
"There's no doubt that I love what I do," said Hamilton. "There's no doubt I really do love the challenge every weekend, how we show up every weekend.
"The more and more I travel, the more and more I see how important it is to people, as the sport continues to grow, what we all do, and the message we give out to everybody. How people show up, how excited people are, how united, or uniting, sport is.
"Also, I'm in this early phase of building Mission 44 and this is the best platform for me to be able to talk about that and continue to build on that."
"All my fans keep saying to me, 'You've got to keep going', and there's something inside telling me that I've got to keep going right now.
“It's not forever, but something inside is telling me, 'You're not done yet. You've got to keep pushing. You've got more to do, you've got more to achieve'.
"There's a reason why I have as much energy as I do. There's a reason that I'm still able to train with the intensity that I do, and I have the dedication that I do.
“At some stage, I will want to have a family and that will be my full focus, but right now, this is it.
“It's going to be hard one day, stopping racing. I've done it for 30 years, it'll be 30-plus years when I do eventually stop. Luckily for me, right in this second, it's not now."
Over the course of the past few years, sparked by the death of George Floyd in May 2020 at the hands of a now-former Minneapolis police officer, Hamilton has taken on the role of a social activist.
In June 2020, the Hamilton Commission was designed to increase the number of Black people in motorsport, followed shortly after by Mercedes' Accelerate 25, a five-year programme aimed at ensuring that 25 per cent of all new starters on the team come from underrepresented groups.
In 2021, Hamilton then founded Mission 44, a charitable foundation seeking to transform the lives of young people from underserved backgrounds by narrowing opportunity gaps in education and employment.
Even now, though, he feels "there are still so many barriers in place". He added: "Hopefully, it's not going to be like this for much longer, but it's sad to see that we are still finding those things today.
"If I don't have these conversations with people, if I don't bring up these difficult conversations, they won't necessarily get discussed or tackled, or energy from organisations won't necessarily be put into creating more inclusivity.
"Spending the time having those conversations and what it means and how positive it could be for everybody, it takes time. It's a constant job to have them.
"There are days when I don't feel like I'm doing enough. There are days when I don't feel like I've got to do more, and there are days when I feel like I'm failing people because the problem is everywhere. It's far bigger than me, right?"
"I just have to keep reminding myself to stay on course, keep doing what I'm doing. I'm learning all the time, I'm making mistakes all the time. I'm really trying my best to learn from them as I'm more and more conscious of the steps that I'm taking, the actions, and the time where I'm spending it.
"I'm really, really proud of where we have Mission 44, but I want action now, not tomorrow, not in two years from now, five years from now.
"We've got to get on it now because we don't know how much longer our time is here. The spotlight is on me right now, and I have this platform, and I have this potential. I want to change this and positively affect as many people as I can in that time."