BAHRAIN - Lewis Hamilton has hit back at claims that he is aiming to secure an unprecedented eighth drivers' title triumph and then retire.
Instead he was excited by the season ahead and also at the prospect of racing on under next year's new era after major regulation changes, Hamilton said on Thursday.
"In my current position, the position I'm in now, I don't feel like this is the end," he said, knocking back widespread speculation that he was ready to quit.
"I think this looks like it could be the most exciting season yet - we've got new teams, new formats and it is closer. I don't feel like I'm at the end, but in the next eight months I'll find out whether I am ready to stop or not.
"I don't think I will personally but you never know."
Speaking ahead of this weekend's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the seven-time champion was responding to reports that suggested Mercedes were set to sign Max Verstappen from Red Bull and George Russell of Williams to replace him and team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
McLaren team chief Zak Brown was widely quoted saying he believed that Hamilton's decision to sign only a one-year contract with Mercedes indicated changes ahead.
But Hamilton spoke in an upbeat way about his and the sport's future.
"Of course, we have these changes that are happening next year which are exciting," he added, before conceding that he did not think his Mercedes team were starting the season as the fastest.
"Each year, it's a little bit of an unknown, but of course more often we have a better feeling of what's happening with our car.
"It's massively exciting for us as a team. We are currently not the fastest. But how are we going to work together? How are we going to unite in order to get to where we want to be?
"For me, I'm super-excited by that challenge. Seeing some of the other teams close, I think it's going to be great for fans, but I love that collaboration with the men and women in my team and trying to get to a common goal."
Hamilton's dominance of the sport – he has won six drivers titles in seven years while Mercedes have taken seven constructors championships in a row – had led to speculation that, at 36, he was considering his own future.
But his positive attitude matched that of two other senior figures in 41-year-old Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo and two-time champion Fernando Alonso who has returned, aged 39, with the Alpine team, formerly known as Renault.
Alonso declared this week that he felt he was as good as, if not better than, all of his rival drivers, despite his age.
On Thursday, he elaborated, saying that age did not come into his thinking of his commitment to the team.
"I'm so far enjoying it and I know that the repeated question is my age, on my comeback, but I'm a little bit surprised because I'm not that old!
"The world champion, the guy dominating the sport, is 36. It's not that I'm 20 years older or something to have the repeat question every time."