Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton hailed one of his “best drives” on Friday despite being outpaced by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo during the second free practice of the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, where on Sunday he hopes to claim his fourth drivers’ Formula 1 world title.
The 32-year-old Briton, who spun and ruined a set of tyres at Turn 11 early in the session, said his recovery and consistency in the remainder of that practice had seen him produce a drive that was “one of the best I have every done.”
Earlier, he had suggested that a fourth world title would not usher him towards retirement and hinted that he is likely to remain in the sport for the next few years.
“I can easily imagine myself without Formula 1, but it is not about that right now,” he told reporters. “There are some really cool things coming along that are going to complement where I am in Formula 1.”
He declined to elaborate on his plans, but conceded that he had been in Los Angeles earlier in the week to discuss “creations” he was working on.
“I definitely won’t be here at 40,” he said. “I don’t think that is going to happen, but it changes all the time. There have been times when I thought I am happy to move on, but you can’t come back.”
“I can’t tell you how long I will be here for, but eventually I will figure it out and know when the time comes. I anticipate a couple more years at least.”
Hamilton also said that he would not consider winning a fourth title as elevating him beyond his childhood hero, Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who had won three championships before his death in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Looking back on his early years in F1 with McLaren and his first championship win, he added: “In 2008 I was a kid. I had all the natural talent I have today, but I didn’t have the knowledge or experience.
“I’m much better equipped now than I was in 2008. It’s actually been more enjoyable this year being in the position I am. I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin so that’s really helped me.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s race and his chance to secure another title, he added: “I’m now fighting a championship-winning team in Ferrari and a champion driver, but I’m much better equipped. It’s actually been more enjoyable this year being in the position I am. When you are 18, you think you know everything, but you don’t know anything.”
On Friday, Hamilton wound up second in both sessions, having also been outpaced by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the morning.
“It’s been a good day,” said Hamilton. “It didn’t really start out great, particularly in the second session with the big spin on my first lap that really threw me off the session and made it a little bit tricky to get the run on the super-soft tyres.
“I had put myself on the back foot, but the single lap and then the long run on the ultra-soft was probably one of the best I’ve ever done.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done 26 laps that consistent, apart from in a race maybe. We got lots of information, the track was feeling better in the second session once the temperature came up -– so, overall, it was a good day,” added the Mercedes driver.
Big Question: How long will Lewis remain in Formula 1?