If Lewis Hamilton’s impassioned words to BBC Live’s Jennie Gow in the aftermath of an enthralling United States Grand Prix seem like a warning shot to the dominant Max Verstappen and Red Bull, it’s because they were.
After 16 years in the fastest lane motorsport has to offer, it would be perfectly reasonable for Hamilton’s relentless pursuit of greatness to lose some steam.
And perhaps early this season, with a staggering seven World Championships behind him, that flame did wither in the gusts of Formula 1’s new era.
George Russell’s long-anticipated arrival at Mercedes was significant. And with the 24-year-old noticeably out-performing the veteran over the first eight races of the year, a passing of the baton from one Brit to another appeared imminent.
According to the narrative, Hamilton was the iconic figure of a storied past, a driver who defined an era in Formula 1, while Russell was the future and destined to run point as Mercedes prepared to take the fight to Red Bull in the coming years.
At first, the notion of Hamilton being nudged aside by his fresh-faced team-mate seemed preposterous, but even the man himself began to harbour doubts.
He said: “It’s only natural for human beings to have questions and doubts every now and then. In the beginning of the season, I was up and down, I was all over the place.
“When you’re looking at performance you’re like; is it just the car or is it you as well? You have to question everything.”
It’s not a stretch to speculate that Hamilton’s career may have hung in the balance at one point.
Amidst the self-doubt, the team’s shortcomings and the plaudits directed at the driver in the neighbouring garage, the temptation to walk away would’ve been entertained.
But it didn’t take long for Hamilton’s insatiable drive for success to stir. For all his natural talent, his mentality and ability to coax the best out of himself has always set him apart.
So in vintage Hamilton-manner, he put his head down, refocused and emerged from the fog of uncertainty.
Since the Canadian Grand Prix, Hamilton has featured in the top five nine times in 11 races, standing on the podium on six occasions. Tellingly, Russell has finished above him only three times during this period.
The superb start the former Williams driver enjoyed this season was received as a sign of things to come. A changing of the guard, so to speak.
In reality, Russell’s exceptional talent and youthful exuberance served to refuel Hamilton’s ambition.
For the preceding five years, Valtteri Bottas was a fine second driver for Mercedes but never came within touching distance of his decorated team-mate who had to rely on his own pursuit of perfection to keep his edge.
Russell on the other hand has posed a far more significant threat and has perhaps been key to forcing Hamilton into resurgence.
His performance at the US GP seemed to be the culmination of his recovery this season. A first win in 2022 continues to evade him, but with an accomplished drive to P2, the belief is most certainly restored.
“What I take from this is, I still got it,” Hamilton said. “I still got the speed.
“I know that and the team knows that when they build me the car, I will take it there.”
With the battle between Verstappen and Charles Leclerc taking centre stage at the start of the season before the reigning champion pulled well clear of his challengers, Hamilton began to drift into the background.
Now, with Mercedes edging closer to the top once more, the 37-year-old has his eyes set on a new challenge, perhaps his greatest yet.
Red Bull and Verstappen’s unparalleled supremacy this year points to the start of a new dynasty, one to rival the eight-year hegemony Mercedes forged with Hamilton at the helm.
He now seeks to arrest that storyline in its infancy by reviving his rivalry with the Dutchman which, last year, produced arguably the greatest title-fight the sport has ever seen.
Another battle for the Drivers’ Championship appears on the horizon. Of course, Leclerc and Ferrari will have their say as well.
But it would be bold to bet against a man determined to secure his eighth title, surpassing the legendary Michael Schumacher in the process.
Hamilton will eventually leave the world of Formula 1 behind, but he won’t go quietly into the night. The final chapter of his remarkable legacy remains unwritten.
‘Hammer-time’ isn’t up, just yet.