Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists he is not using George Russell to push Lewis Hamilton into signing a new deal.
Hamilton’s last contract expired on December 31 with negotiations over a fresh contract still ongoing.
Russell has been touted as a replacement should the world champion not put pen to paper having filled in at the end of last season.
Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19 and was forced to miss the Sakhir Grand Prix with Russell stepping in and qualifying in second.
He may well have won the race were it not for pit stop and tyre issues, though Wolff insists Russell’s name has not been used in talks with Hamilton.
Wolff said: “We never played the George Russell card. He did incredibly well and will one day be in a top car, but our long-standing partnership is not at all about making any threatening gestures.
“We know we want to race together. And now we have to negotiate the contract.”
Wolff also admitted that talks do get heated with Hamilton with the new Formula One season just weeks away.
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The boss added: "The lawyers are working hard. We don't make life easy for them, of course, when we both argue over Zoom and keep sending curveballs to the lawyers.
"But he's in America now and I'm here in Austria. At some point we will finalise it. It's how it is with negotiations.
"You always come from different corners, but that's quite normal.
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"We have a really solid basis in our relationship. We have celebrated great successes together and want to continue doing so in the future.
"But sometimes you have to talk things out in detail, and that took or still takes us some time. But before Bahrain at the latest, you have to sign something at some point."
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