Lewis Hamilton will know exactly when to leave F1 and I think he will quit for good, claims David Coulthard

LEWIS HAMILTON will know when the time is right to quit Formula One – and when he does he will stop racing for good.

That's the view of former McLaren driver David Coulthard, who left F1 in 2008 after 15 years in the sport.

Eyebrows were raised when Hamilton, 36, agreed just a 10-month deal with Mercedes when it was expected to be at least a two-year deal.

The short-term contract, plus the world champion's miserable pre-season test last weekend in Bahrain, has raised question marks if he will leave F1 at the end of this year, when new rules will come in for the 2022 season.

Coulthard, who will be on Channel 4's coverage at the season opener in Bahrain on March 27th and 28th, said: "If he truly believed it was time [to quit now], he would not have been in Bahrain for pre-season testing.

"I think he has got inner peace and if he had that feeling, we would have had that announcement he was leaving.

"But when he does decide that's it, I don't believe he will drive one more lap in a racing car. I very much doubt you will see him rocking up at Le Mans or anything like that.

"You know when to quit when you wake up one day, or even after a lap. Niki Lauda who knew during a lap in Canada, or James Hunt, who walked away midseason.

"In my case, I got the realisation at the beginning of 2008 pre-season test. I jumped in the car with hopes and desires that we'd made a big step forward and it just didn't feel like it.

"Having had 14 previous seasons and known how long it takes to develop a car, that was the time I thought it was not going to be a winning year.

"I remember Mark Webber asking me how I knew when it was enough. I knew it was time for him to stop having asked me the question.

"It is like any relationship, you just knew in your heart that it is the right time. You just know."

Hamilton is going in search of an eighth world title this season, which would move him clear of the joint-record he currently holds with Michael Schumacher.

And while judging from the pre-season test he appears on the back foot, Coulthard says the Brit is capable of springing a surprise in Bahrain.

I don't doubt for one moment that, if he has a sniff of performance, then he would not be the man who can deliver it.

He added: "I was reading all the reviews of testing but you will find out where you are when you get to the first race weekend.

"Now of course, you get an indication about reliability and general form from testing but nothing you could go to the bookies with.

"So, what do I think? It clearly was not a smooth few days as they would have liked and may well have ticked a nerve.

"But we have to remember as well, this is not his first pre-season rodeo.

"He has done it all before and, depending on his mood, will depend on if he engages with the media.

"It has been an unusual route to this point in terms of the contract being so late in being announced.


"But I don't think with Lewis you can use historical trend. He is very much his own man and at this stage at his career where he has found a way of operating.

"I don't doubt for one moment that if he has a sniff of performance then he would not be the man who can deliver it.

"Just when you think he's down, he bounced back, a bit like Muhammad Ali when he was doing the old rope-a-dope. He's not as easy to read as the others."

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