Lewis Hamilton insists his future in Formula One will not rest on securing an eighth title this year, saying championship success is no longer his key motivation.
The seven-time world champion chose to commit to a single-year contract with his Mercedes team for 2021, meaning his future in F1 beyond the end of the season is unclear.
Speaking at the launch of Mercedes’ 2021 car, he said he had not yet decided what he would do in 2022 and that his main motivation now comes from his desire to push for greater diversity in F1.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I don’t have to commit to multiple years, so I chose to have a one-year deal,” he said. “Then I can see how the year goes and where we are at mid-year, or towards the end of the year. Who knows if we will still be in a pandemic.
“But it doesn’t mean I’m not committed. I’m still very, very committed to the sport. What I’m really focused on, is around the discussion on this diversity issue.
“It still remains an issue today and it’s not going to change tonight but what’s really important is that we are actually delivering and actually taking action. I’m really proud of my team here and the steps we’ve taken.
“That’s kind of my driving force this year too, to make sure that we continue to push for accountability and on top of that hopefully I can deliver some good performances.”
Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven F1 titles last year and has the potential to set a new record by securing an eighth this year. But he said achieving the record would not impact his decision to remain in F1 beyond 2021.
“I have made a real important decision in my mind that I don’t want that to be the deciding factor,” Hamilton added. “I got into racing because I loved racing. That has got to be at the core of what I do.
“If I don’t love racing, if all you’re going for is accolades, all you’re going for is titles I feel like I could potentially lose my way. Of course it’s the ultimate dream but I don’t think it’s going to be the deciding factor as to whether I stay or keep going.
“It’s more whether when I put the helmet on, I still have the smile when I leave the garage. Last year was a really tough year for everyone, including me. There were still some really impactful moments.
“Will it be the case this year? We’ll see. Will I enjoy it as much? I’m excited now, so I’m sure I will.”
Speaking at the car launch, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he would give Hamilton first refusal on a new contract before approaching other drivers, such as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“The sheer fact that we have had so much success together in the past and the relationship that we have, the trustful relationship, will mean that any conversation that we have on 2022 and the future will first be with him,” Wolff said.
“The relation, the symbiosis we have, is always that we have mutual understanding of what we want to do in the future, and that will be also the case in the discussions with Lewis going forward.
“Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody’s radar in the future, but as I said before we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding of… with our two drivers.”