2021 F1 battle 'reinvigorated' Hamilton but retirement may still be in sight

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A "reinvigorated" Lewis Hamilton admits this year's battle with Max Verstappen for the Formula 1 championship triggered his decision to re-sign at Mercedes.

In Austria, it was confirmed the seven-time world champion had committed to a new two-year deal until the end of 2023, by which time he'll have spent a decade at the Brackley-based team.

The quick extension was certainly much less eventful than the build-up to his current contract, which was only signed in February after Covid-related delays.

“The past contract [for 2021] was meant to be a two-year deal, it was potentially going to be a two-year deal and I asked for it to be a one-year deal," Hamilton explained.

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“Obviously we’d been through a pandemic and there was so much change in the world. Also, I was unsure whether I would continue or not."

Then though, Hamilton finally got something he'd been regularly asking for in recent years, competition.

"The start of this season, when the cars were so close in performance, pretty much equal, it was one of the most exciting times I've had for some time, to have this battle with Red Bull," he continued.

"I was honestly really hoping it would continue like that through the rest of the year but as you've seen they've taken a huge leap forwards.

"Last year was a long, long, long journey and it's always a good time to reflect and see what's next.

"But I found myself waking up thinking about racing so I wanted to continue to race, and now we're having this tight battle, it's brought me closer to the team, to the engineers, it's making me dig deeper and I love that.

"I guess it has been reinvigorating, the love that I have for this sport, for what I do."

In addition, Hamilton is also excited for the future of F1...

"There are the conversations we have in the background, on the phone, on Zoom with the FIA and Formula 1, and seeing Stefano [Domenicali] coming in and knowing what a great guy he is, knowing what this sport can be, and being a part of helping this sport evolve and being as great as it can be."

At the same time, however, the 36-year-old Briton admits his F1 career is probably entering its final few chapters.

“I honestly hope I’m not racing at 40,” Hamilton told Italy's Corriere della Sera. “There are so many things I want to do that it would be difficult to continue in F1 too.

“But in life, the evolution is so fast that it can surprise you. For example, I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I am having this season.

“I don’t think it’s because of Max [Verstappen] or anyone else. I don’t look at rivals much, but the new ones are great.

"Lando Norris, George Russell, Charles [Leclerc], and Carlos [Sainz] above all. He has just arrived at Ferrari and he is driving very well, with Leclerc he forms a very strong duo. F1 is in good hands, I predict a bright future.”