By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton has warned rivals that he plans to be better than ever as he chases a record-equalling seventh Formula One championship this season.
The 35-year-old Mercedes driver posted a picture on Instagram of himself at home, hugging a wooden pillar and smiling.
"I am at peace when I’m here, can focus and build my mind and body so that I can come back year on year. I’m going to be a machine this year, on another level than ever before," he declared.
The Briton won 11 races last year and has averaged 10 victories a season since the start of the V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014.
The opening race is in Australia on March 15 and Hamilton starts the campaign with 84 career wins, seven short of Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91.
Mercedes started last season by winning the first eight races.
Schumacher also holds the record of seven championships, five with Ferrari, while Hamilton has won five of his six with Mercedes.
Hamilton is out of contract at the end of the 2020 season and has had talks with Ferrari, although the champion looks more likely to stay with Mercedes now that the Italian team have committed long-term to Monegasque youngster Charles Leclerc.
Red Bull have also signed a deal with Max Verstappen until the end of 2023.
With stable rules and similar tyres to last year, hopes are high of an epic battle between Hamilton at the peak of his powers and the young guns vying to topple him.
"We've got continuity across all aspects of next year with drivers, with regulations, with engine supply, engine regulation," Red Bull boss Christian Horner told motorsport.com.
"So unless somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat, then I think we're set for a really exciting year next year between, Mercedes, Ferrari, ourselves. It could be a real classic season."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)