Hamilton still full of drive as he chases 6th F1 world title

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In this Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 file photo, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain cheers with marshals, followed by US actor Will Smith, prior to the start of the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, file)
In this Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 file photo, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain cheers with marshals, followed by US actor Will Smith, prior to the start of the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, file)

Turin, Italy (AP) – At the age of 34 and with five world titles, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton is still showing no sign of waning motivation.

His competitive spirit was clear to see at an event for Mercedes’ sponsors in Turin last Friday.

Taking part in a ‘pit-stop challenge’ with teammate Valtteri Bottas, where the pair had to help change a tire on an F1 car several times, Hamilton was eager to beat the Finnish driver on every occasion, despite it counting for little.

And it is that drive and determination he will take into the new season.

“I’ve just come off my break. I missed work. I’m a workaholic,” Hamilton said at Petronas’ $60 million research and technology center. “I love being at work, I like working with people. I feel that as soon as I get back to work I’m living my purpose.

“Ultimately I just love driving. I don’t love testing. I just want to go racing. I don’t struggle with the motivation for that.”

Hamilton has won the title in four of the past five seasons and secured it by his biggest margin of 88 points last season after Sebastian Vettel’s poor second half of the campaign.

However, this year could be one of the toughest yet for the British driver.

The first week of testing ended Thursday with Ferrari looking to be a step ahead of Mercedes. Vettel and Charles Leclerc – who replaced Kimi Raikkonen – were among the fastest drivers in the first week of testing in Spain, with Hamilton and Bottas unable to keep pace.

Max Verstappen is also expected to push for the title. The 21-year-old Red Bull driver finished fourth last season, above Bottas, and was only two points away from beating Raikkonen.

“I have no idea at the moment,” Hamilton said when asked who would be his main rival. “I’ve not been looking at what they’ve been doing but I have to assume that they’re all currently contenders, there’s not just one of them and I’ll find out when we get to the first couple of races.

“Probably the first four races you’ll get an understanding of the true pace and the consistency of the cars and the drivers.”

Verstappen and Leclerc – who is the same age – are tipped to follow Hamilton and Vettel as F1’s next stars.

Leclerc earned a prestigious move to Ferrari following strong performances for unheralded Sauber in his debut F1 season and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he reminds him of Hamilton when he first came into F1 in 2007.

But while Hamilton admits certain aspects of racing are harder with age (tell me about it!), he also believes nothing replaces experience.

“Each year, getting in shape, getting your mind into gear is still a massive challenge if not harder each year as you get older so once you get over that wall its pretty good after that,” he said.

“When I first started I was just a kid, I was 22. I had all the talent that I needed, but I didn’t have the experience. So it was all raw, wild adrenaline and ambition without really a particular strategy. Over the years you gain knowledge and experience and that helps solidify that foundation.”

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is on March 17, where Hamilton will start his bid to become only the second driver to win more than five world championships – behind only seven-time winner Michael Schumacher.