The prospect of a top-level athlete retiring never fails to provoke interest. Headlines question “when Will Federer and the Williams sisters call it quits?” or declare “England legend James Anderson hits back at Michael Vaughan over retirement claim.”
Lewis Hamilton is no different in that regard. It’s one thing to be at the top of your game, winning championship after championship, but as soon as you are perceived to have dropped the ball, the retirement speculation mounts.
The issue of age and the passing of milestones often figures prominently in the narrative. So it was at the French Grand Prix last weekend, where the seven-time world champion marked his 300th race in Formula 1. How many more does he have left in him?
Hamilton’s current contract expires at the end of next season, so is he already thinking about an extension? Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted they had “talked a few weeks ago” about “how long our partnership can go.” With a coy smile which indicated he wasn’t being entirely serious, Wolff added: “The number that was discussed was five to ten years – so I think we can go to 400 [races].
“Someone once said you have not just got to win the eighth After 300 grands prix, Hamilton may surprise himself by racing on into his forties · RaceFans, so why not 10?” added Wolff with a laugh.
In the recent past Hamilton’s commitment to F1 seemed to be waning. He opted for only a one-year contract extension with Mercedes in 2020. Following his controversial championship defeat to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi last year he went silent on social media prompting some (though by no means all) to suggest he wasn’t coming back.
When he did return, he indicated he didn’t plan to race far beyond his current deal, which will expire a month short of his 39th birthday. Asked at the start of the season whether he expected to emulate the likes of American National Football League star Tom Brady, playing in his mid-40s, Hamilton brushed it off.
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“I haven’t thought about that number because I’m 37. I’ve still got a bit to go,” he laughed during pre-season testing in Bahrain. “I honestly haven’t thought about that and I don’t plan to be here close to that age. Hopefully I have some other fun things to get on with.”
The beginning of the season gave more fodder for those predicting Hamilton would head for the exit sooner rather than…