SILVERSTONE, Great Britain -- Lewis Hamilton expects to stay in Formula One for at least three more years, revealing he is motivated to remain in the sport by its lack of diversity and his desire to prove he deserves a space on the grid.
The six-time world champion is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of 2020 but is expected to negotiate a renewal with the team over the coming months. Speaking ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix, he revealed that he is targeting a minimum of three more years in the sport but admitted that nothing was concrete.
"I think you still have to earn the right to be here in terms of how you perform and continue to deliver," he said. "So my goal is to continue to deliver as long as I can. I do see myself going for at least another three years."
Hamilton made his F1 debut in 2007 with McLaren, won his first title in 2008 and moved to Mercedes in 2013. Since then he has added five more titles and looks set for a record-equaling seventh this year if he can fend off Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton said the delayed start to the season due to the coronavirus pandemic may have inadvertently extended his career by giving him time to rest and reflect.
"The COVID lockdown meant the first part of the season was cancelled, and while that was a negative in many, many ways, in some ways it gave a lot of life and energy to focus on some other things and that bit of time off was really a bit of breathing space. It has kind of giving me a renewed bit of energy to perhaps go longer.
"Ultimately I want to be able to perform at the level I am performing at now forever, but obviously there is a point at which physicality and the mental side can tail off. I don't know when that's going to be, but I don't see that happening in a particular short term in the next two or three years, so I am definitely going to be here for the foreseeable future."
Speaking about his motivation to remain in the sport, Hamilton cited the lack of drivers from his background in junior categories. The 35-year-old is F1's only Black driver and has taken the lead in campaigning for greater diversity in the sport.
"We are in a period of time when there is not another driver form my background coming at the moment," he added. "I'm conscious of that as well. I don't know, I'm just going to try and ... I want to earn my position here.
"I feel like every year I come back that it is not a given just because I have world championships under my belt."
Hamilton has previously said his long-term future at the team might depend on team boss Toto Wolff staying as well. Wolff is also out of contract at the end of the season, but while he has hinted at changing the exact definition of his role in the team, he has said he does not intend to go elsewhere.
Hamilton said Wolff had become a friend as well as a team boss and underlined the importance of that relationship.
"It's been a relationship that has its own complexities but has grown so much over the time we have been working together -- it's nearly eight years, or it is the eighth year? -- and I think it is just going from strength to strength as we learn more about each other," he said. "I think in relationships, in friendships, as you get to know about each other, your barriers start to come down a little bit and you open up more to each other.
"I see Toto as a friend, but he is my boss at the same time. He has been very fair and a great leader in our team. I think the results that we are achieving, I think a huge amount of that is down to his leadership and I think there are so many people in this team and we are part of the same chain and we are all different links in the chain, but the philosophy that he hands down, stems down from his drive and he is a real racer at heart.
"He used to race, and you can see from all those videos and funny memes banging on the table that he, like all of us, hates losing and is passionate about this. I'm grateful to continue to work for him."