Hamilton denies claims of a 'hold up' on new Mercedes contract

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Lewis Hamilton has denied suggestions of a "hold up" on signing a new contract at Mercedes.

Based on comments by team boss Toto Wolff, it was expected the seven-time Formula 1 champion would agree an extension to his current deal, which ends after 2023, during the off-season.

However, on the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix, that has not happened with the Austrian now not putting a timeline on any talks.

That led former F1 drivers Damon Hill and Jenson Button to claim Hamilton was waiting to see how competitive Mercedes would be this year before committing to a new deal.

But speaking on Thursday, the Briton firmly rebuked his fellow countrymen...

“People creating rumours without facts is never helpful,” he said via Crash.net. “You’d have thought they’d both know me by now.

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“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13. I had a difficult year last year and I’m still here. Should I have a difficult year this year, I’ll still be here. I’m a fighter and we fight as a team. I love the challenge.

"Of course, I wish to be starting the season with a great car but it's the journey I think that really counts.

"There is no hold up with our contract," Hamilton insisted. "I've always been very, very relaxed and don't feel like I need to get it done right this second. 

"I have a great relationship with Toto and Mercedes and we fully support each other. I'm really excited about the future together and the work we're doing on and off the track.”

Lewis though has acknowledged the team starts this season playing catch up to Ferrari and Red Bull.

“I knew from the moment I drove the car, the challenge we’d be facing,” Hamilton claimed.

Hamilton BahTest

“On a positive note, not having the bouncing this year is a huge, huge plus, so now we can just focus on pure performance.

"I’m encouraged to see the focus and courage of everyone in the team, just so focused on getting us back to the top.

“We’re not where we want to be to start the season, but this still is a multi-championship-winning team and group of people.”

Even so, Hamilton concedes stopping current F1 champion Max Verstappen from claiming a third title will be a very tall order. 

"Hopefully those behind will continue to apply pressure [on Red Bull]. Ferrari have a decent package, Aston Martin have a decent package and we are hunting too," he added. 

"I don't think Max will slip up. He is a world champion and I wouldn't question his determination and focus.”