Lewis Hamilton will drive in his 100th Formula One Grand Prix at Hockenheim, reluctant to celebrate and with a certain sense of frustration.
Having finished second in his debut season in 2007 and winning the world title at the age of 23 the year after, the subsequent years have been something of an anti-climax for the British driver who has been upstaged by Sebastian Vettel.
Asked if he felt he could have achieved more, Hamilton responded with a clear “”yes” during a media briefing at the circuit on Thursday.
“But if I didn't feel that, I wouldn't be the driver that I am.”
“I can't deny it, putting aside the fact that I'm very proud and grateful that I've had the chance to be competitive in a competitive car.
“Each year, I feel that I've prepared myself and had the mental ability and skill to have won more but, just with the circumstances, we haven't been able to do so. It's been a tough 10 or 15 years for this team.
“I'm waiting for that time when they have their highest point. I hope at some stage it's our turn.”
The 27-year-old, who followed up his 2008 world title with fifth in 2009, fourth in 2010 and fifth again last season, said it was 'insane' that time had gone so quickly.
“I don't think I'm excited simply because its my 100th Grand Prix,” said Hamilton, who has won 18 races. “I don't think it's good to celebrate getting older. To think I've done 100 Grand Prixs feels so unreal.
“I didn't keep track of my 10th or my 20th or my 50th Grand Prix, but to get to 100 is important. It would definitely mean a lot to me to win my 100th but I'm just looking for the race win.”
He added: “When you're having a good time, time flies by and the years have gone by very quickly. I'm in my sixth year of Formula One, it's insane.”
Other drivers praised Hamilton's competitiveness although they were reluctant to be drawn on whether he could have done more.
Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher said: “Fans want gladiators who give it their all and exceed limits. For all of us he's a very serious competitor and good to have.”
Fernando Alonso, his former McLaren team mate, disagreed that Hamilton should feel frustrated.
“Like everybody else, he could have won more championships, but nobody who has won the world championship can be disappointed for only doing it once because there are hundreds of drivers who don't have that chance,” he said.
Hamilton, currently fourth and 37 points adrift of leader Alonso after a disappointing outing at Silverstone, said he still believed he could get back in the title race.
“There is still a long, long way to go, the way the championship has gone so far, anything could happen,” he said. “We still have time.”
“We'll find out tomorrow how competitive we are,” he added. “I know what we have and how much we have. I really hope it gives us a chance to at least fight for the win.
“If you have to dice with somebody, this is a great circuit to do it. I did it in 2008.”
The 2008 world champion made it clear he was in no rush to confirm his future as he reaches the end of his current contract.
“I have a lot of faith in this team, we're like a family,” Hamilton told reporters in the Hockenheim paddock. “Anything different would feel very abnormal.
“For me, when you are in a position like this for the first time, you have to do due diligence, and you have to make sure that you look at the whole grid.
“You have to look at all your options and know all your plans, and not rush into things. Some of the worst decisions are generally the ones that are rushed.”
Hamilton grew up with McLaren after joining the team as a teenager and being groomed for the top.
He said he hoped that he could be at McLaren when they next found success.
“It's been a tough 10-15 years for this team,” he added. “So I'm looking and waiting for that period to come where they have their highest point.
“They had it with Mika Hakkinen in the late 1990s and I hope that at some stage it's our turn.
“I definitely feel that I can do it, and I'm constantly boosted by the team when I go back and see how hard they are pushing. This team never gives up, I never do, and we hope that at some stage we will be rewarded for that.
Hamilton was speaking after McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh suggested his team would have no difficulty in retaining the Briton's services for the long-term future.
“I have known Lewis for a long time.”
Whitmarsh said on Thursday that he was sure both McLaren and Hamilton felt equally relaxed about their situation despite the media speculation suggesting Hamilton would move.
“I'm expecting that we will reach agreement on a long-term deal,” he said. “I feel that w understand each other and our relative positions very well.
“We have been concentrating on the season, on our performances, more than anything. I think there has been more speculation, more concern and more interest in this situation with the media than perhaps with the team and within Lewis's mind.
“We appear nowadays to be often asked questions about it, but I don't think it occupies as much time in our minds as it does in column inches.”
Whitmarsh also dismissed the idea that McLaren's current slump in form would make any difference in their negotiations which Hamilton has said he hopes to complete during the August summer break.
“I think we are going into the next two races trying to win as we go to every race,” he said. “Lewis is more intelligent than to worry about recent form in these circumstances and so too are most of the media - or I certainly hope they are!”
Whitmarsh added that he was hopeful that “noticeable” updates the team will introduce to the MP4-27 car at this weekend's German Grand Prix will help turn around their form after two disappointing races. - Reuters, AFP