Lewis Hamilton has delivered an ominous warning to his Formula One rivals by vowing to improve on his almost flawless championship-winning campaign in his Mercedes.
The British driver emerged from his winter hibernation at Silverstone on Wednesday to get his first taste of the car that he hopes will fire him to a sixth world title.
The 34-year-old won 11 of the 21 races in 2018 to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and secure his fifth championship with two rounds to spare.
And as he enters the first campaign of the new two-year Mercedes deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, a fully refreshed Hamilton is ready to extend his dominance of the sport.
“2018 was a great year, but I feel like 2019 can be even better,” he said. “I want to achieve more, I want to continue to keep pushing. I feel energised and I am ready to attack.”
Hamilton, who will be partnered at Mercedes for a third successive season by Valtteri Bottas, is entering the 13th season of his remarkable career, and will move to within just one title of Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven should he triumph again this term.
The British driver said he switched off from racing in the off-season to recharge his batteries.
Hamilton, who remains the only black driver to have competed in F1, is keen to make his reach felt beyond the sport.
“I have this great platform and I want to achieve more, but there is a much, much bigger picture to what I am involved in, and what I and my family represent,” he said.
“What is driving me right now is to continue to push for diversity and change, not only in my sport, but also in the world, encouraging young people to dream big and really putting it out there in the universe.”
Only Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica are older than Hamilton but the Mercedes star said he did not feel like a veteran.
“I still feel young, I still feel fit, I feel strong and I have still got it,” he said. “If you look at fire, it is a beautiful thing. You see the flame is constantly shifting, and that is the same in my heart every single year.”
Ahead of chasing a sixth consecutive constructors title, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “When we met after the winter break, Lewis was refreshed. He’s extremely hungry and wants to start racing again.”
Pre-season testing gets under way in Barcelona on Monday before Hamilton starts his championship defence in Melbourne on March 17.