Lewis Hamilton delivers Mercedes contract update and shuts down George Russell question
Lewis Hamilton believes there is no need to switch up his team-mate next season as speculation continues ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion also admitted contract discussions with Mercedes have begun for next season and beyond.
Rumours have been swirling regarding both Hamilton’s contract and who might partner him at the team next season, with many suggesting Valtteri Bottas’ time is up at Mercedes and that George Russell is set to replace the Finn.
Fuel was added to the fire to the end of last season, as Russell stepped in for Hamilton, who was recovering from COVID-19, during the penultimate race of 2020.
On loan from Williams, the Mercedes junior driver qualified second fastest just behind Bottas, and managed to sweep past the Finn on the opening lap.
He was on course to win on debut but, due to a pitstop blunder and a puncture, he had to settle with P9. But his form sent ripples throughout the paddock.
With such a performance, many thought Russell would be the natural fit at Mercedes, with Bottas struggling for pace, with some suggesting the Finn had already been told of the switch this season.
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The 31-year-old dismissed any suggestions, with Williams’ Russell explaining ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix he had yet to even open any conversations with teams.
Hamilton’s contract, along with Russell and Bottas, comes to an end this year, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hoping to sign Hamilton on a ‘multi-year deal,’ however, the Briton remained coy about the details.
He said: “We have begun discussions, and, not a lot to say – just we have had discussions and things are positive so… and yes, Valtteri is my team-mate now, and both of us have had ups and downs in our careers, but as I said he is a fantastic team-mate and I don’t necessarily think that needs to change.”
When pushed by Tom Clarkson in the FIA’s F1 press conference on Thursday for a word on Russell as a viable option, Hamilton replied “Doing what?”
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Clarkson responded: “Being your team-mate?”
“Well, he’s not my team-mate currently, so I don’t need to say anything on that,” concluded the Brit.
Hamilton is looking to claw back the lead of the championship this weekend, with Max Verstappen leading the way by 12 points.
And despite bouncing back from two tough weekends in Monaco and Baku, the 36-year-old admitted they still have a lot of work to do at Mercedes.
“I think we can always make improvements for sure, we will continue to work as a team. I think we’ve worked well as a team for many years,” concluded Hamilton.
“I think Valtteri [Bottas] has been the best team-mate overall, and when I say team-mate, it’s not just about driver performance, it’s about team morale, it’s about how you work in the team-mate environment.
“We’ll continue to improve and work on our communication and hopefully do better and move forwards.”
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