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Hamilton expects to sign new Mercedes deal by Christmas

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Abu Dhabi (AFP)

Lewis Hamilton ended speculation about future intentions on Sunday when he made clear he expects to sign a new contract with Mercedes before Christmas.

The newly-crowned seven-time world champion, who finished third in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on return from a bout of Covid-19, said talks with team chief Toto Wolff were likely to start in the next "couple of weeks".

"I plan to be here next year, I want to be here next year," Hamilton told reporters after the race.

"I think us, as a team, have more to do together, more to achieve both in the sport an even more outside the sport.

"So, yes, I hope we can begin this week discussions and hopefully get it tied up before Christmas."

Hamilton has won six of his seven titles with Mercedes since joining in 2013.

In that time, he has won 74 races, the most by any driver with a single constructor.

He has also scored points in a record 49 consecutive races, if only race starts are considered after he missed last weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix.

On Sunday, he admitted he felt "destroyed" by the after-affects of the coronavirus and was well below his best in the race at the Yas Marina Circuit won by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Wolff said Mercedes' defeat -– Valtteri Bottas finished second ahead of Hamilton –- meant they departed Abu Dhabi with "a slap on the wrist" following a below-par display.

Verstappen came home 16 seconds clear of Bottas at the end of the team's most comprehensive beating this year.

"We are leaving this race with a slap on the wrist," said Wolff.

"It wasn't a good weekend for us."

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