RACE DEBRIEF

    After only agreeing a new contract for this season just before the start of winter testing, Lewis Hamilton has revealed that talks on his next deal with Mercedes have already begun – and says he wants everything wrapped up "much faster" than last year.

    Hamilton's one-year contract for 2021 was only announced in February of this year, and in Austria the reigning champion – currently second in the championship with a 12-point gap to leader Max Verstappen – was asked about his future, and whether contract discussions were under way.

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    He confirmed talks with Mercedes had already begun, and speaking to F1.com, he said: “We are hoping to get it done much faster than we did last time; we don’t want to fall into the same trap. And it’s quite chilled as well – we always talked about not wanting to do it mid-season because it would be a distraction – but we’ve done it in a way that it’s light-hearted.

    "It’s not intense, it’s not causing trouble, and good communication as always with Toto [Wolff, Team Principal]. So I hope we have something soon."

    Lewis Hamilton hoping to finalise 'light-hearted' 2022 Mercedes contract talks quickly

    As for Valtteri Bottas, whose contract also comes to a close at the end of the season, Hamilton backed his team mate.

    "Valtteri is my team mate now and we have, 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 see that it needs to change," he added.

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    Williams’ George Russell is reported by many to be waiting in the wings for a Mercedes seat as he is managed by the Silver Arrows – but Hamilton avoided any discussion over his compatriot joining the team in 2022. Instead, the Briton responded with more positive things to say about Bottas, who has been his team mate at Mercedes since the beginning of 2017.

    “I think we’ve worked well as a team for many years, as I’ve always said, and Valtteri 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.

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    Hamilton hasn't won a Grand Prix since the Spanish round in May

    “We’ll continue to improve on our communication and hopefully do better moving forwards,” he added – responding to a question about the ease with which rival Verstappen swept past his own Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez in France compared to the difficulty Hamilton had passing Bottas in Spain.

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    “I think we can always make improvements, for sure. If you look at the Red Bulls, of course – I saw the video of Sergio and Max – a few seconds later, it could have been mid-corner and maybe Max could have lost more time, but it was just a perfect time that he happened to meet him on track and I guess it’s potentially a little bit different when we were in Barcelona,” he added.

    Mercedes are 37 points behind Red Bull in the Championship ahead of the first of two races at the Red Bull Ring, at which they won both the 2020 Styrian and Austrian Grands Prix.