Lewis Hamilton has confessed to experiencing moments of self-doubt during a difficult 2023 F1 season.
For the second year in a row, Hamilton and Mercedes have endured a tricky season and lagged behind runaway champions Red Bull.
The seven-time world champion managed one pole position in 2023 but suffered his second successive winless campaign.
Despite that, Hamilton was able to secure third place in the drivers’ championship behind Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
“Ultimately, when you have difficult seasons like this, there are always going to be moments when you’re like: ‘Is it me, or is it the car? Do you still have it? Has it gone?’” Hamilton told BBC Sport.
“Because you’re missing that, you know… when the magic happens, when everything comes together, the car and you, and that spark, it’s extraordinary. And that’s what you’re in the search for.
“I’m only human. If anyone in the world tells you they don’t have those things, they’re in denial. We’re all human beings.”
Amid his quest to win a record eighth world title, Hamilton signed a new two-year contract extension with Mercedes in August that will keep him in F1 beyond his 40th birthday, something he did not originally plan.
“What you’ve got to learn is you should never say never,” he said. “But at that point, I definitely didn’t think I’d be continuing. They are frickin’ long seasons. It’s a long time away from everyone. I’ve been doing it 16 years. It’s gruelling.”
Hamilton, who has not won a race since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, admitted he has found the scrutiny surrounding his current situation tough to handle.
“There’s a lot of glitz and glamour and lots of positives but it’s by no means easy to stay at your best, to stay committed, to keep up the training, to continue to deliver. It’s a lot of pressure,” he explained.
“You’re being scrutinised all the time and I’m in a place in my life where there’s no way I can win.
“If I win a race, it’s: ‘Oh, he’s a seven-time world champion, you got 103 wins.’ If I don’t do well, it’s [criticism]… I can only lose at this point in life. So for sure there was a period of time when I was questioning whether I wanted to go through that.”
But the 38-year-old added: “I still love driving. I still love getting into the car. When they start the car up and you have all those people around you, the crew, you go down the pit lane, I still get this smile on my face the same as I did the first day I drove.
“Most of my race performances have been really good. So that, I am happy with – building back up to the level I should be.”
Keyword: ‘Is it me?’ - Lewis Hamilton confesses to self-doubt during difficult F1 spell