By James Galloway
Lewis Hamilton says he has started talks with Mercedes over a new contract to stay in Formula 1 beyond the end of this season.
Hamilton is mid-way through the one-year deal he signed in February for 2021.
“We have begun discussions,” Hamilton confirmed in Thursday’s Styrian GP press conference.
“Not a lot to say too much on it, just that we have started discussions and things are positive.”
Speaking to F1, the 36-year-old added: “We are hoping to get it done much faster than we did last time. We don’t want to fall for the same trap. It’s quite chilled as well.
“We are always talking about not wanting to do it mid-season because it can be a distraction, but we’ve started it in a way that it’s light-hearted, it’s not intense, it’s not causing trouble.
“Good communication as always with Toto [Wolff] so I hope we have something done soon.”
Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 and has gone on to enjoy unprecedented success, adding six titles to the one he won with McLaren. He is chasing a record eighth drivers’ championship this year, having already claimed the outright F1 record for race wins, pole positions and podiums.
But while Hamilton’s continuation at the world champions appears a formality, the identity of his team-mate for 2022 is less clear cut.
Valtteri Bottas, 31, has held that seat since 2017 but his contract is also up for renewal at the end of the season. Mercedes-backed George Russell, 23, is the obvious alternative should the team opt to look to the longer-term future.
Hamilton has once more given his public backing to Bottas, who has endured a difficult start to the season.
“Valtteri is my team-mate now and both of us have had ups and downs in our careers but he is a fantastic team-mate and I don’t necessarily see that it needs to change,” said the world champion.
Hamilton: ‘We unite and we come out with something great’
The early phases of talks between Hamilton and Mercedes are taking place amid one of the most intense battles they have faced on track since the team’s rise to the front of the grid.
Red Bull lead both championships after seven races heading into the first of two consecutive races in Austria. But despite trailing in the title race, Hamilton said he is “honestly really enjoying this season so far”.
“Of course we would love to be leading both world championships but I really think it has been bringing the best out of us,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“It’s pushing us to the point where we get to experience the worst in certain instances, and we’re learning. We are growing as a team along the way. We’re not even halfway through and it’s still so exciting. No doubt it’s going to continue to be.”
Hamilton added: “I believe we are the best team, given whatever circumstances. Right now we are on the back foot but I think we are relatively close given the fact we have been slightly behind since the beginning. When these people are put to the test, we unite and we come out with something great. So I hope that shows sometime soon.
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