Max Verstappen and Red Bull battle key factor in Lewis Hamilton's contract extension

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Lewis Hamilton says the battle with Max Verstappen and Red Bull this season helped solidify his plans to stay in Formula One, but the seven-time world champion reiterated he won’t be racing in F1 past 40.

Hamilton signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes to take him to 2024 with the seven-time world champions, and into a new era of Formula One from 2022 with regulation changes.

The deal extends his nine-year stay with the team and means Hamilton is committed to F1 until at least the age of 38, with 2023 set to be his 17th season in the championship.

Mercedes have dominated the championship for seven years, with Hamilton winning six titles alongside the British-based German team, with his former team-mate Nico Rosberg taking the title in 2016.

Yet, now Hamilton and Mercedes are being pushed to their limit in F1, with Verstappen leading the way by 18 points in the driver standings, and Red Bull pulling out a 40 point lead in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

And Hamilton says it’s been a thrilling start to the year.

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“I think we are being challenged more than ever this year, which is great, and I love racing. This is what I want to do,” said Hamilton, quoted by Reuters.

“I had the best and most enjoyable start of the year, enjoyed the roller-coaster ride that we’re having,” he explained.

“The start of this season, when the cars were so close in performance — pretty much equal — then it was really one of the most exciting times I’ve had for some time. To be able to have this battle with Red Bull.

“I was really hoping that it would continue on like that for the rest of the year but they’ve taken a huge leap forwards”

“I found myself just waking up thinking about racing, so I wanted to continue to race,” he said.

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“Now we are having this tight battle it’s brought me closer to the team, closer to the engineers, it’s making me dig deeper and I love that. It has reinvigorated the love that I have for this sport and love for what I do.”

Hamilton has 98 wins and 100 pole positions to his name, and if he wins an eighth world title this season, would overtake Michael Schumacher to become the most successful driver of all time.

His new contract will see him race on until he is 38 — an age he said “doesn’t actually sound that bad”.

However, the Briton has no interest in being in the championship if he’s not competitive.

“There’s going to be a point at which I’m going to want to move on to do different things…I’m not going to do it at 80%, 70% and just trundle along,” he said.

“I’m only here to win. So if there’s ever a point that I feel I don’t want to commit the time or the effort, that will be the time for me to stop. I don’t plan to be here until I’m 40. I hope I have something else exciting to do beyond.”

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