He may have already confirmed his status as the most successful British driver in motor racing history, but Lewis Hamilton insists he has got plenty more miles left on the clock.
Hamilton, 32, clinched his fourth Formula One drivers’ championship in Mexico on Sunday evening when he extended his lead over rival Sebastian Vettel to an unassailable 56 points with two races remaining.
The star’s £100m contract with Mercedes has one more season to run but the team are believed to be ready to table an even bigger deal to secure his services beyond 2018.
“Four is a great number but I want No5,” the Englishman said of his title tally, which has now eclipsed Sir Jackie Stewart and trails only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
“I’m enjoying driving more than ever. Whether it’s a few [years], a couple, or one, I’m still going to be here next year and I hope for a little time beyond that.
“There is a long life after Formula One and I don’t want to make it any longer than it’s going to have to be because this is the best period of time in my life.
“There are still great things beyond my Formula One career which I am working on right now but I’m enjoying driving more than ever.”
Hamilton could only finish ninth in Mexico City – his worst result for four years in a race that he has completed – after sustaining damage to his car in a heated first-lap collision with Vettel.
The Englishman’s simmering rivalry with the German, a fellow four-time tile-winner, has contributed to one of F1’s most exciting championships of recent years, albeit that Vettel’s challenge was eventually hampered by late-season technical problems.
“Each championship has felt different in its own way, I guess because I have been in different place of my life, I’ve gone through different things,” Hamilton added.
“This one does feel like one of the best and that’s with fighting another team. Ferrari is such an iconic team, Sebastian is a four-time world champion, so if I was winning the championship against someone who doesn’t have a championship it wouldn’t feel as great. You want to be compared against the guy who is the most decorated.”
A fourth title has cemented Hamilton’s claim to be the greatest British driver, although he already boasted a superior record of 62 grand prix wins to Scot Stewart’s 27 and the 31 of England’s Nigel Mansell.