Valtteri Bottas doesn't need to defend his performances for Mercedes as he comes under pressure for his place on the grid, according to Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas finished some 124 points behind his British team-mate in the Drivers' Championship, with Hamilton missing one Grand Prix after testing positive for Covid-19.

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George Russell stepped in for the champion on that occasion and it is thought that team principal Toto Wolff is considering offering the 22-year-old one of his team's cars in the future.

Bottas' contract with Mercedes expires in 12 months' time but Hamilton is perfectly happy racing alongside the Finn.

"I don't think Valtteri needs to defend his performance, and I don't feel like I need to," Hamilton told motorsport.com.

"I think he's continued to work at it, and we've definitely had very, very close qualifyings, particularly this year.

"Like I said before, it's never easy having strong team-mates. It's a constant battle between you, both mentally and emotionally throughout the year.

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"What's really great with us is that we fight it out hard on-track, but then when we're outside, we manage to maintain a gentleman working relationship, and I think that's a big showing of his personality and character as a man.

"I know next year he is going to be taking more steps, so I've got to work a way and figure out how I can find some more speed for next year."

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