By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton said he does not want to retire from Formula One at the end of the year.
On the eve of his championship defence in Bahrain, the 36-year-old also confirmed he will continue to take a knee this season.
Hamilton and his Mercedes team recently agreed terms only on a one-year extension, raising the prospect that this campaign could be the Briton’s 15th and final in the sport.
But Hamilton, who is bidding to win an unprecedented eighth world title, said on Thursday: “In the current position I am in I don’t feel like I am at the end.
“Over the next eight months or so I will find out if I am ready to stop, but personally, I don’t think I will.
“We have got these changes happening next year which are exciting, and this season could be the most exciting one yet. We have new teams, new formats, and it is closer.
“The position I am in has nothing to do with whether we are winning the championship. I don’t quit when the going gets tough.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 24, 2021
“I wanted a one-year deal. I am fully committed to this sport. I love what I am doing and I arrive more excited than I have in a long time.”
Following a poor pre-season campaign, Hamilton’s Mercedes team are expecting Red Bull, led by Max Verstappen, to be real contenders this year.
Mercedes have won the last seven drivers’ and constructors’ titles, but Hamilton said: “We are currently not the fastest, and it is about how are we going to work together, how are we going to unite in order to get to where we want to be?
“We are going to have a great battle and that is what I have always loved. It is massively exciting for us as team. I am so excited of that challenge and seeing the other teams closer is going to be great for fans.”
Hamilton won last year’s title against the backdrop of his personal fight against social injustices. His Mercedes car has been painted black for a second year in a powerful anti-racism message.
Ahead of Sunday’s curtain raiser, F1 bosses have confirmed there will be a dedicated slot ahead of each of the 23 scheduled races where drivers will be allowed to take the knee.
“I cannot ignore the fact that last year weighed heavily on me,” added Hamilton, who was knighted in the New Year Honours list.
“It definitely felt empowering to not be silent like some may want you to be. It definitely felt good to take the knee to let the black community know, ‘I hear you, I see you, and I stand with you’ – and that was important for me.
“There are so many things we need to address around the world and I cannot fix everything but I want to help. We have an amazing platform here.
“I plan to continue to take the knee because what is really important is when young children are watching what we are doing in this sport, and when they see us take the knee, they will sit and ask their parents or their teachers why are they doing that? What are they taking a knee for? And it sparks an uncomfortable conversation.
“It means parents have to educate themselves and the kids are getting educated.
“It is a fight that is not won. It is a fight that will continue for a long time I am sure but we are in a good time where conversation is healthy.”