Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton had a tough run in Canada, finishing off the pace in fifth. But, while there is every chance he could go on to win a fifth world title this year, his next contract could be his last in F1.

The signs have been there for a little while, coming into focus at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, where the Brit took his first pole position at Suzuka - and his comments afterwards provided a clue.

“I’m running out of opportunities to get this pole, so I was like “I’ve got to make sure I make it stick today”,” he said.

At the end of that 2017 season, with a fourth world title secured, Hamilton spoke about the challenges ahead, all but ruling out his chance to go one better than Michael Schumacher’s seven crowns.

… which would make him the greatest of all time.

"I can't see it at the moment, four more. Well, you can imagine it's taken me 10 years to achieve these four. I currently still don't have that desire to match it. I think that matching [Juan Manuel] Fangio [on five titles] could be quite cool."

And it’s a sentiment shared by those in and around the paddock.

“I think Lewis [Hamilton] is going to struggle to get to the seven that Michael [Schumacher] achieved, but I do think that he’s got a number of really big years still left in him.”

And eight titles is not only a big ask in terms of Hamilton’s motivation, but competitively as well with the next four championships needed – including 2021, when the sport’s ‘car of the future’ makes its debut.

… and Schumacher’s five-straight crowns between 2000 and 2004 secured with relatively stable technical regulations.

The German’s record of 91 race wins is far more achievable, with Hamilton now needing 28 to beat it – and the Silver Arrows racer taking nine or more victories in each of the past four seasons.

Regardless, while Mercedes’ head of motorsport Toto Wolff has said that Hamilton could go on much longer than the end of 2021 - the 33-year-old has other ideas.

“I could probably stay 'til I'm 40 if I wanted to, but I don't think I'm going to do that. I could stay one or two more years, but in two more years' time will I still have the excitement that I have now going into another season? I really can't tell you." 

Hamilton’s next deal, a three-year contract that is reported to be worth up to $160 million US dollars, is said to be done, an announcement expected around the British Grand Prix, with rumours the Brit wanted toys included like the F1 cars he races.

It all points to the fact that Hamilton could be preparing for life after racing, with 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard expecting his countryman to retire even earlier at the end of 2020 and move into music.

… with Hamilton equally comfortable on the racing line and red carpet.

“Beyond 2020 there's every likelihood he may well be releasing his first album which he's been working on," he said.

If true, it would be a fitting end to one of the greatest F1 careers in history – with Hamilton having nothing left to prove and riches and fame enough to take him wherever he wants to be. 

After all, the Brit has seen just how happy former teammate, and 2016 F1 World Champion, Nico Rosberg is post-career… 

For the next three years, though, it’s pedal to the metal, as Hamilton does what he does best - winning for Mercedes.