Nov.30 (GMM) Lewis Hamilton has got his post-season holidays off to an adrenaline-soaked start by joining a group of friends with a spot of skydiving in Dubai.
While some of his rivals had some more driving to do after the Abu Dhabi finale in the form of the post-season test, the Mercedes driver was looking forward to speed of a different kind.
“I’m not really looking forward to next year,” he told Viaplay on Sunday after the 2023 finale. “I’m just looking forward to tomorrow.”
Speaking to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, the 38-year-old admitted he knew as soon as he got at the wheel of Mercedes’ 2023 car early this year that it would be another “long one”.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Hamilton added. “I had asked for certain changes to the car and they were not made. The emotions get to you.”
Finally, though, Mercedes’ engineers have understood the basic issues with the 2022 and 2023 car concept and are preparing a completely different car for next year.
But Hamilton, 38, admits that it still might not be enough to catch Red Bull.
“With the limited resources these days, you can’t just throw everything away and start from scratch. You can’t even just copy Red Bull – Aston Martin tried that and found that the copy was not the original,” he said.
Amid Mercedes’ struggle this year, Hamilton was also stuck in the middle of complex and protracted negotiations over a new contract for 2024 and beyond.
Did he ever ask himself during those talks if he could cope with even more struggles over the next two years at least?
“Not during my contract negotiations,” Hamilton insisted. “I am convinced that we will get where we want to go.”
But that’s despite him regularly saying some years ago that he can’t even imagine still being in Formula 1 at the age of 40 – a milestone he is now racing towards.
“Back then, I really couldn’t imagine it,” said the Briton. “The seasons are getting longer and longer and I’ve been doing it for 16 years now. It’s gruelling.
“And these days, if I win a race, it’s normal – ‘he’s been world champion seven times and won 103 grands prix’. There have definitely been moments when I’ve asked myself whether I still wanted to go through it.
“But now I motivate myself with smaller victories, like moving the car forward together with the team.”
Indeed, it’s rumoured that Hamilton was at the centre of Mercedes’ discussions about the future of Mike Elliott – with Elliott now departing and permanently replaced as technical director by the returned James Allison.
“First of all, I would like to emphasise that it’s not my fault that Mike left us. But we are all part of a team in which the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together.
“James has leadership qualities that I’ve probably never seen with any other engineer I’ve met. He’s at the front with the sword, telling everyone how to walk through the fire.”
Hamilton insists that as he approaches the end of his 30s, he hasn’t yet noticed a deterioration in his physical condition. But he admits that his eventual retirement from F1 could come quickly.
“I really have no idea,” he smiled. “It can be abrupt and I’m suddenly gone. Or I slip into a different role. But at the moment I still love racing too much.
“Once that smile isn’t on my face when I roll down the pitlane, I’ll know it’s time to stop. But I hope it never happens.”