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Lewis Hamilton predicts 2023 F1 title battle and 'exciting' future with Mercedes as contract talks begin

Lewis Hamilton's contract expires at the end of the 2023 Formula 1 season but he says at car launch: "I'm going to continue to go for a bit. I don't plan on being anywhere else"; Toto Wolff confirms contract talks have started and that "journey" will continue

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Lewis Hamilton says he feels fit enough and deserving enough of his place to continue with Mercedes as he aims to win an eighth F1 drivers title.

A "refreshed" Lewis Hamilton is confident Mercedes will return to Formula 1 prominence this season but insists they have nothing to "prove" to convince him to commit his future, with talks on a new deal having begun.

Hamilton heads into a contract year aged 38 this season but cast an energetic, upbeat and excited figure at Mercedes' car launch on Wednesday despite the struggles of 2022, when the team fell from F1 domination to third and Hamilton from battling for a record eighth title to a career-worst sixth in the championship.

"I can't remember the last time I felt excited to get in the car," said Hamilton as he praised the work of Mercedes to redesign the W14.

"It's no coincidence that we've won world championships in the past. You don't all the sudden just lose the ability to be able to do so."

Max Verstappen and Red Bull dominated last year and Hamilton admitted Mercedes "perhaps won't be the fastest out out the gate" but said they have "the potential to be closer" and "to close the gap early on in the season", which begins on March 5 in Bahrain.

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Mercedes launch the W14 with hopes it will have the correct ‘DNA’ to compete and battle for the Formula One title in 2023.

Regardless of their pace, Hamilton says he intends to continue in F1 with Mercedes beyond this season, with team boss Toto Wolff confirming the pair have held a "first chat" but are not pressed for time over his deal.

"I love working with the team," Hamilton told Sky Sports News. "This has been my life for such a long time and I feel currently fit enough and deserving of my position - so I'm going to continue to go for a bit.

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"Of course our goal is to win a world championship. I'm not thinking about eight... I'm think about a championship like it's my first. I believe I've got the right team in order to do that. I'd be so proud to do that for this team again."

He added to the written media: "I don't feel like I need them to prove [anything] to me.

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Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton says he will continue to use his voice to acknowledge social injustices despite FIA rules preventing drivers from making political statements.

"I think we've proved time and time again over the years that we have strength in depth.

"We still have all these incredible, incredibly talented individuals within the team. As I said, you don't lose that ability.

"We're continuing to try and improve our processes. We're continuing to try and be smarter in how we approach things. And with our communication, I think this is the best harmony within the team that I've seen in all these years.

"It's an exciting time for the team. And I don't plan on being anywhere else."

Wolff expects 'best' Hamilton in 2023 | 'Age plays no role in contract'

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff hopes their 2023 car - the W14 - is as fast as it looks when it gets out on track.

Wolff also spoke to the media on Mercedes' launch day and said Hamilton's deal, more than likely his last in F1, would not be a "complex" negotiation.

"We've done a few of these contracts in the past," he said. "And they changed little from iteration to iteration.

"We have had a first chat. I don't want to commit to any timeline because it's not important for him, nor for us at that stage. It runs a full year and we're going to have to find the right time."

Wolff added: "I think the the age, 38, plays no role for this next contract - if you look at how well top athletes in the world have pushed the boundaries.

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Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Mick Schumacher have their say on their new car.

"In terms of the contractual situation. I think we've always found good solutions that reflect the values for the team. And for the sport and on the other side, I think Mercedes is the place he wants to be.

"Nothing is dragging on. The alignment is great and like in the years before. It's not a first priority in sitting down because this is going to be a journey. That will continue."

The Mercedes boss also hailed Hamilton's physical and mental state ahead of the 2023 campaign.

"How he appears to me is in great form, very positive, motivated, energised, maybe the best so far I've seen in those 10 years," he said.

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In this behind the scenes footage, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted to stealing Lewis Hamilton’s loafers for the car launch.

"He knows what he has with the team. We won eight constructors titles in a row and we got it wrong last year.

"So the resource, the capability is there and we just need continue to develop like we've done last season. So I don't think it plays in Lewis's mind, any doubt that the team can perform.

"We will. Eventually."

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