F1: Hamilton and Bottas take the W12 Mercedes around Bahrain
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Nine-time Formula One race winner Mark Webber has urged Lewis Hamilton to avoid retiring from the sport at the end of the season – and expects him to continue into 2022. The Mercedes stalwart is aiming to seal an unprecedented eighth Drivers’ Championship title this year in order to cement his status as the greatest F1 driver of all time.
The Stevenage-born racer got off to the perfect start at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, managing his rapidly-deteriorating tyres excellently to hold off the pursuing Red Bull of Max Verstappen and claim the first Grand Prix victory of the new season.
The Dutchman passed Hamilton with only a few laps to go but was ordered to give up his lead after leaving the track in order to squeeze past his rival.
Webber, who drove for Red Bull between 2007 and 2013, believes that Hamilton is approaching the end of his career at 36 years of age and with little left to prove.
However, he has claimed that the reigning world champion has plenty left in the tank and could find even more success if he decides to remain on the grid after the expiry of his current deal with Mercedes.
“He’s definitely on the home straight, there’s no question about that,” Webber told the On The Marbles podcast.
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“You’d be a brave man to say he’s going to race for three more years. Two, maybe. One, yes, and then there’s a high chance [he could retire], it makes a lot of sense. There’s new rules in 2022.
“[I’d say] go long, even Lewis at eight-and-a-half out of 10 is still dangerous. Go a bit longer, you don’t have a great deal to lose in my opinion when you’re that amazing.
“I still think he’s got more in him.”
Hamilton could be set for another spell of contract uncertainty at the end of the campaign, with the 36-year-old having penned a one-year extension earlier this year to see him through until the final race in Abu Dhabi.
The second half of last season was dominated by speculation over the seven-time champion’s future plans as his previous deal ran down.
He explained last month that he is in no rush to make a lengthy commitment to Mercedes or F1 ahead of next year, suggesting that he will simply play it by ear over the coming months and make a decision when he is ready.
“Time will tell, I guess, it’s not like it’s my first rodeo,” Hamilton told Autosport.
“I think I’ve been in this position where at least I’ve been asked the question for a period of time. I don’t really feel pressured in that sense.
“Naturally, I continue to have huge belief in, and always bet on myself in terms of I know what it takes to deliver.”
Hamilton’s off-track commitments could pose a threat to the longevity of his racing career, with the Mercedes star championing a number of initiatives to improve diversity and fight climate change.
He launched the Hamilton Commission last year, a project working to overcome the key barriers to progression for black people in motorsport.
The former McLaren man is also heavily involved with the all-new Extreme E series that sees electric SUVs do battle in remote areas affected by climate change across the world, with an emphasis on addressing environmental problems.
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