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Lewis Hamilton: Why Mercedes F1 driver is right to consider extending career – and the key factors ahead

After Lewis Hamilton’s recent admission that he was thinking of extending his Mercedes contract, which expires at the end of 2023, Sky Sports F1 expert Mark Hughes looks at the motivating factors and why Hamilton may wait before a final decision

Lewis Hamilton has previously admitted he has given retirement serious consideration for several years. But each time, he has renewed.

However, during his recent Vanity Fair interview, he turned it around, saying: “I’ll be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about extending.” As if the default assumption is now that he will retire at the end of his current contract – which runs to the end of 2023 – but that he’s considering not doing so. It’s a subtly different position.

This year, Fernando Alonso has shown the folly of the previous widely-held assumption that race drivers’ performances will invariably tire off physically if they keep going to their late 30s/early 40s. It was always nonsense.

With some exceptions, it’s invariably depleted motivation after the long years of slog which can begin to diminish the inner desire to push as hard as the young charger looking to make their name. Alonso remains hugely motivated, as does Hamilton, four years Alonso’s junior.

If he can retain that inner desire there is no reason he will not be able to access his extraordinary skills as effectively as ever for years to come.

Hamilton has a keen sense of the narrative of his own career history. He sees it in very personal terms as a triumph against adversity. His whole career has been a magnificent triumph against so many initial obstacles; a Black kid from a council estate is not the usual starting point of an F1 career.

Even if he had retired 10 years ago with just his one McLaren world title and never sat in a dominant Mercedes, he would still be one of the true greats of the sport; one of the greatest drivers F1 has ever seen. But beyond just his level as a driver, his stature as a sporting icon – in terms of the inspiration to Black culture his success represents, the opening up of the sport to a huge previously uninterested, unengaged section of the population – makes him possibly the greatest of all.

That stature has only been emphasized by the record-breaking success achieved after switching to Mercedes. The importance he had already attained within the sport – his reputation purely as a driver – before that switch, would come to be matched or even exceeded by the statistics made possible by that move.

The events of Abu Dhabi 2021 – when on the cusp of what would have been an unprecedented eighth world title, misapplication of the sporting regulations saw him denied – still sit heavily upon him, as he confirmed in the recent interview. That this should be followed up by his first uncompetitive car in 13 years – preventing him from ‘doing the talking on track’ as he likes to put it – will likely only be storing up that inner desire and motivation.

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