Hamilton aims to sign off from McLaren with title

Lewis Hamilton admits a weight has been lifted from his mind now he has completed his deal to join Mercedes, and is fully focused on leaving McLaren as world champion.

Hamilton’s move to the German marque was confirmed last week with the Briton replacing seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who yesterday announced his second retirement from the sport ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton was reticent to talk about the reasons for his decision to leave McLaren after 14 years with the international media, having already held a press briefing with British journalists at the Conrad Hotel in Tokyo on Wednesday.

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When questioned, he replied: “I’m not really here to talk about that this weekend. I’m here to talk about trying to win this World Championship still.

“We’ve got six races ahead in a great team that I’ve had a great, incredible journey with and I’m working on trying to finish that on a high.”

But when asked if he felt more relaxed having made up his mind over where he will drive next year, Hamilton was more forthcoming.

He said: “Absolutely, yeah I feel fantastic. I am very, very happy and excited and grateful that I can now just focus on these next six races.

“I know there’s a lot of work ahead of me and I know I’m leaving a very good car behind for Sergio (Perez).”

Hamilton has spoken with relish of the challenge he will face at Mercedes, a task made more difficult by the stature of the man he is replacing.

Even though Schumacher’s second spell in F1 following his 2010 comeback has been a disappointment, Hamilton knows how difficult it will be to replace a man with seven world titles and 91 race wins to his name.

“I don’t see myself as replacing Michael. I don’t think anyone can replace Michael, he’s a legend in the sport, he has achieved so much already,” he said.

Hamilton retired while leading in Singapore last time out and fell 52 points adrift of Championship leader Fernando Alonso with six races remaining. He has never won at Suzuka but is hopeful of adding victory here to his CV.