Lewis Hamilton has vowed to work harder than he has ever done before to ensure his name sits alongside Formula One's immortals by winning a fifth world title.
Hamilton will open the defence of his championship in Melbourne on March 25th with a chance, this year, to equal the great Juan Manuel Fangio’s title haul.
Only Fangio, the Argentinian who won his championships in the formative years of Formula One, and Michael Schumacher’s magnificent seven, now lay in Hamilton’s path after he saw off Sebastian Vettel’s challenge last year.
The Ferrari driver provided a stern test for Hamilton, but it was the Briton who prevailed with two rounds to spare following some of the greatest displays of his quite remarkable career.
Vettel, also a four-time champion, is likely to lead the assault on Hamilton once more in 2018, while Red Bull – whose fight is spearheaded by Hamilton's heir apparent, 20-year-old Max Verstappen – will threaten, too.
But Hamilton, who is due to sign a new two-season deal with Mercedes which could be worth an eye-watering €45 million a year, is up for the battle as he prepares to enter his 12th F1 campaign.
“Naturally as we get older it gets harder to train and to be at the same fitness level,” the 33-year-old said. “If you imagine Max, it is easier for him because it was easier for us all to be fit, and not to have a belly when we were younger.
“So, it gets harder but I love that challenge.
“It is a fresh start this year. I am on the same level as every driver here, but I want to prove that I am above them and that means I have got to work harder than I have ever worked before.”
Hamilton kept a low profile during F1’s off-season following criticism he received for an Instagram post in which he told his young nephew that “boys don’t wear dresses”.
The Briton issued an apology for the video before launching a mammoth deleting spree across his social media networks. The purge, according to Hamilton and his advisers at least, had always been planned, but the timing was curious.
Hamilton then largely stayed away from Mercedes’s factory, steered clear of social media, and avoided any public outings, too. Indeed his appearance at Mercedes’s car launch at Silverstone, in the final week of February, was his first since collecting his championship-winning trophy at the FIA’s official prize-giving gala in Paris days after the 2017 season’s close.
Hamilton is already preparing for life after motor racing, and one could be excused for wondering whether his low-key winter was a sign that he had grown tired of the scrutiny that accompanies being one of Britain’s biggest sporting stars.
“Sometimes you wake up and you don’t want to do the training,” Hamilton said. “But then you do the day’s work and it feels great.
“In a week’s time we will be racing in Melbourne and there is only 20 of us that get to do that. We all have to find gratitude in our work, and in our lives because we are so fortunate. Particularly for myself, to drive a Formula One car it is like a fighter pilot. It is very unique and I am very grateful for the opportunity.
“I look at this season and, while I have won four world championships, and have more pole positions than anyone else, and I have a lot of wins, too, I will enter this season like any other.
“I have got this opportunity and I love that I am faced with this huge mountain to climb again.”
And do not be surprised if Hamilton wins the race to its summit.