KUALA LUMPUR • Lewis Hamilton says he is "loving" his world championship battle with Sebastian Vettel so much that he has banished any thoughts of retirement as he heads into Sunday's last Malaysian Grand Prix.
At Sepang a year ago, the Briton thought the world was against him, spouting conspiracy theories when his Mercedes engine exploded while leading, which handed a 23-point championship cushion to team-mate and eventual champion Nico Rosberg.
It left the three-time Formula One world champion at such a low ebb that there were rumours he could retire.
But a rejuvenated Hamilton this season broke Michael Schumacher's record for career pole positions, and even spoke about attempting to match the German great's record 91 race victories after his 60th win - and third in a row - in Singapore.
Grab 'super early bird' tickets for S'pore race
Race organiser Singapore GP announced yesterday the release of 12 "super early bird" ticket categories for the 2018 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.
Next season's race - the first under a new four-year contract signed earlier this month - is provisionally scheduled for Sept 14-16 at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
For the first time, 10 three-day grandstand ticket categories will be offered in this phase.
Other ticket categories available for sale include zone one walkabout combination package and three-day premier walkabout.
Tickets under this promotion are priced from $258, providing savings of up to 33 per cent off regular ticket prices. The junior ticket category will also be available during this stage.
The promotion is until Oct 31.
Tickets are available at www.singaporegp.sg, via the ticketing hotline at (65) 6738-6738, as well as Sistic outlets in Singapore and authorised ticketing agents worldwide.
"I definitely have thought about (retirement)," the Mercedes driver admitted on a British TV chat show at the weekend. "But then we're in the heat of this battle right now and I'm loving it more than ever. It's the greatest feeling ever so I'm going to keep going for as long as I can and see what I can do."
Hamilton's calamitous luck of last season has turned full circle, epitomised by his win in Singapore 11 days ago after pole-sitter Vettel's Ferrari was shunted by Max Verstappen and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen on a rain-sodden first lap.
Hamilton, who started fifth on the grid, avoided the carnage and emerged victorious to extend his championship lead over Vettel from three to 28 points with six races to go, starting with Malaysia's swansong.
But Mercedes chief Toto Wolff warned Hamilton to stay focused as the championship is far from over.
"We will need to be on top of our game at every track to maintain our lead," he said. "The last race was a strong reminder that sport always has the power to surprise. We have been on the receiving end of those bad memories before."
Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene vowed to keep the pressure on Mercedes. "Singapore doesn't mean the battle is over," he said. "Just that it has become more difficult."
Vettel will look to strike back on a track where alongside Schumacher he has the best record of any driver, with four victories.
We're in the heat of this battle right now and I'm loving it more than ever. It's the greatest feeling ever.
LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes driver, on this year's title race with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton's lone Malaysian success came in 2014. A year ago, Red Bull, who this week announced Aston Martin as their title sponsor from next season, benefited from Hamilton's meltdown as they completed a one-two and they have been getting steadily stronger.
Daniel Ricciardo 12 months ago shared a "shoey" - champagne from his driving boot - with Max Verstappen after his surprise win. But a group of over-exuberant Australian fans were arrested for celebrating by stripping down to their underwear, a huge no-no in conservative Malaysia.
"My victory last year was definitely unexpected," said Ricciardo this week. "It just goes to show you never know what can happen."