Lewis Hamilton has admitted he questioned his future in the sport and his ability behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car after his struggles on the grid over the past two seasons.
The seven-time world champion signed a two-year contract extension with Mercedes back in August and said he was determined to get himself and the team back to winning ways.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “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 I still have it? Has it gone?'
“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.
“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.”
Hamilton finished third in the drivers’ standings behind the two Red Bulls but a gargantuan distance off Max Verstappen, who cruised to a third straight world title.
But he has set his sights on an outright record eighth world title as one of his major motivation factors for the remaining years of his Formula 1 career.
“Winning the world championship is a huge part of that drive,” he said.
The 38-year-old said he had high hopes going into the 2023 season, which quickly evaporated when he realised almost immediately in testing that the car was again uncompetitive compared to the front-running Red Bulls.
“I just knew it was going to be a long year,” he said on reflection. “No one knew exactly what the problem was. No one knew how to fix it. Having the experience of the previous year, I just applied myself in terms of digging down, sitting with the guys. We were having much better meetings.
“I was able to stay a lot more positive during the year and be like, ‘it’s going to be a long season but let’s not give up, let’s keep pushing towards getting the maximum out of the car whatever that may be’.
“It’s been kind of a zig-zag line trying to frickin’ get to where we need to be. Every now and again, something positive happens, you’re like, ‘ok, that’s it’. And then it shifts so the goalpost is always improving.
“I do believe we have a North Star now, which I don’t think we’ve had for two years but still getting there is not a straight line. I think we understand the car so much better. They have developed great tools in the background so naturally I’m hopeful but I’m not going to hold my breath. But I do have faith that we will get there.”