TURIN, Italy — Lewis Hamilton is "super relaxed" amid ongoing contract negotiations with Mercedes and the four-time world champion hinted it could be his last deal as a Formula One driver.
Hamilton is entering the final season of his three-year contract but talks are underway about a new deal with Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff.
The British driver had said last month he hoped to get it done before the new season gets underway but he acknowledged Wednesday that it's now unlikely to happen before the first race in Melbourne on March 25.
"We started talking about it over the winter and I was like I'll come back to it and then we picked it up again and I was like I'll come back to it. It's not really my priority at the moment," Hamilton told The Associated Press in an interview.
"I'm really super relaxed, I don't feel pressure from the team, I don't feel pressure within myself. I want to continue racing so I'll have to do a contract at some stage but I'm definitely not going to do it when people want me to do it. I'll do it when it's ready."
If he does sign a new deal with Mercedes, it's expected to be for another three-year span. But while he feels he could stay at the top of his game for seven more years, the 33-year-old is not sure he'll stay that long in the sport.
"I don't want to stop early, I don't want to stop premature that's for sure but I really don't know what my time is," Hamilton said. "I could probably stay until I'm 40 if I wanted to but I don't think I'm going to do that.
"I could stay one or two more years but in two years' time will I still have the excitement that I have now of going into another season? I really can't tell you."
Relaxed is exactly how Hamilton appeared as he basked in the sunshine at an event for Mercedes' sponsors in Turin.
A jovial Hamilton laughed and cracked jokes as he responded to questions on the balcony of Petronas' new $60 million research and technology centre.
But while he was calm and collected, he was also visibly excited to get back to racing.
"I don't really like practice," he said. "I'm super competitive and that's never ever going to change. Even when I'm 80 years old I'll be competitive and hopefully I'll have grandchildren or something by then, still going to be wanting to beat them if I'm walking with my blooming zimmer (walking) frame. It's just how I'm built."
It's that drive and motivation which could see Hamilton become only the third driver to win more than four world championships — after seven-time winner Michael Schumacher and five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
Hamilton said he's hasn't even contemplated that happening and doesn't know how it would feel to be in such illustrious company.
"People always asked me what would it mean if you got the third, the fourth. You just have no idea," he said before adding with a laugh: "It's like saying 'how would it feel if you won the lottery?' I'm sure you'd feel good but you don't really know how you're going to feel. It would probably feel good for a second and then you'd be overwhelmed with people trying to steal your money."