Formula One: Hamilton flattered that rivals want to race with him

Lewis Hamilton walks in the Paddock before practice for the Mexican grand prix.
Lewis Hamilton walks in the Paddock before practice for the Mexican grand prix.PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton takes it as a compliment that Australian Daniel Ricciardo has said he would be interested in racing against him as his Mercedes team-mate in the future.

Speaking on the eve of this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix, where he can claim his fourth world championship if he finishes in the top five, the 32-year-old Englishman was careful to praise Ricciardo, but at the same time to remain diplomatic.

"Daniel is a fantastic driver, it would be a privilege to race against him," Hamilton said.

"He's a great character. He always brings a lot of positivity within his team. I think it's interesting, I think it's cool, I take the compliment that people say they (want to race against me)."

Hamilton made clear, too, that he will do all he can to win this Sunday's (Oct 29) race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez so that he can claim the title "in the right way", rather than taking a cautious approach to completing the task.

"I am really focused on trying to drive just as well as I did last weekend in Texas so I can win the race," he said. "I am not thinking of doing anything else."

Following Dutchman Max Verstappen's decision to commit himself to Red Bull until the end of 2020, Ricciardo's future after 2018 remains a subject of much speculation with his name linked to both Ferrari and Mercedes.

Picking his words carefully, Hamilton explained: "I don't truly necessarily believe that people want to be up alongside me because that is not always necessarily the best thing for an individual, but in some cases it could be a really good thing because it can help you grow.

"You look at Daniel. He's got a great driver in his team-mate and, to be honest, he has got to really work to outperform him first...

"You've always got to beat the person you're with first before you can look at competing against someone else and beating them. That's just my personal opinion.

"I already feel like I've raced against the best here, which in my personal opinion is Fernando (Alonso, of McLaren Honda). We have a great driver in Valtteri (Bottas), who I'm enjoying racing with.

"There are a lot of great drivers here who I would be happy to race against. I don't mind who I race against - anyone in the world - as long as you're able to maintain positivity in the team and hopefully you're still fighting another team as well.

"I think that harmony is incredibly important for everyone to be enjoying what they do."