Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has dropped perhaps the most significant hint yet that he plans to stay in the sport for 2022.
Hamilton's future was a real hot-topic over the off-season with him and Mercedes leaving it pretty late to sort a new deal for 2021.
Indeed, pen to paper was only achieved in February of this year when driver line-ups are normally sorted months before and the terms of the agreement caught the eye, with it lasting for just the duration of this season.
Naturally, that has sparked speculation over whether Hamilton might be tempted to bow out at the end of this season but, speaking at his press conference ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend, he suggested that the recent Pirelli tyre test he took part in was mainly down to the fact he wanted to try the new rubber ahead of remaining in the sport for 2022.
“Well firstly I don’t ever volunteer for test days and it’s probably one of the first ones I have volunteered for, so I immediately regretted it when I woke up in the morning on the day,” Hamilton initially joked via the official F1 website.
“I was like, ‘dammit!’ But no honestly, firstly it was at a really great track to test at, so I enjoyed the day and the weather was good. And I plan to be here next year and I want to help Pirelli and help lead towards them having a better product.
“It’s something that the drivers all have wished for I think - better performance - and so it was important for me to gauge where the starting point is and what differences I can help with.
"So from a driver point of view we have more mechanical grip, less degradation… So I think it was a good test and obviously it was the first step with the tyres but it definitely wasn’t a bad place to start.”
A host of new regulations sweep into the sport in 2022 and among them come completely new-look tyres from Pirelli.
Naturally, then, the drivers want to help with the tests to ensure they're the best they can be and, as Hamilton hints at, he wouldn't have been taking part if he didn't at least have some thoughts about carrying on in 2022.
A new era awaits the sport next year and Hamilton may well relish the challenge of trying to prove he remains the man to beat when that comes - though he has this season and Max Verstappen to contend with first of all.News Now - Sport News