Lewis Hamilton has held ‘positive discussions’ over new Mercedes contract

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Lewis Hamilton said he has started positive discussions with Mercedes over a new contract – and has called on his team to keep Valtteri Bottas instead of hiring George Russell.

Hamilton, 36, agreed only a one-year deal with the Silver Arrows in February, just six weeks before the start of his championship defence.

The length of his contract extension raised the prospect that he could retire at the end of the season.

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However, the seven-time world champion has since claimed he wants a fresh deal in place by the summer break in August.

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And speaking ahead of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix in Austria, Hamilton said: “We have begun discussions. I don’t want to say too much, but the discussions are positive.”

With Hamilton signalling his desire to stay, the identity of his Mercedes team-mate for 2022 remains in the balance.

Bottas has endured a poor start to his season – already 72 points behind leader Max Verstappen in the standings – with Russell, a Mercedes junior driver, continuing to impress in his uncompetitive Williams.

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Russell excelled as a stand-in for a Covid-hit Hamilton at last year’s Sakhir GP. The British driver, 23, was denied victory by a poor Mercedes pit stop and then a late puncture.

But Hamilton added: “Valtteri is my team-mate now. Both of us have had ups and downs in our careers.

“He is a fantastic team-mate and I don’t necessarily see that it needs to change. ”

Asked to comment on Russell as a future partner at Mercedes, a defensive Hamilton said: “Well, he’s not my team-mate, so I don’t need to say anything on that.”

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