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Lewis Hamilton says partnering Daniel Ricciardo would be a 'privilege'

MEXICO CITY -- Though he says he is happy to continue alongside Valtteri Bottas into 2018, Lewis Hamilton took it as a compliment when he heard Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo saying he wants to be teammates in future.

In Austin Ricciardo, who is out of contract next year and likely to become a major player in the driver market, told ESPN he wants to go against Hamilton while the Englishman is at the peak of his career. Mercedes' line-up beyond 2018 is uncertain, with Hamilton -- who stands on the verge of a fourth world championship title -- and Bottas both set to be out of contract.

Hamilton still rates Fernando Alonso, his McLaren teammate in 2007, as his most talented rival but would welcome the challenge of competing alongside Ricciardo.

"I don't mind who I race against," Hamilton said when asked about the Australian's comments. "I have already raced against the best and in my personal opinion that's Fernando [Alonso]. It is interesting and cool and I take the compliment that people saying that they do, I don't always believe that people really want to be alongside me because that is always the best thing for an individual. In some cases it a can be a really good thing because it can help you grow.

"Daniel has a great driver in his team-mate so he has to really work to make sure that he continues to out-peform him, you have to beat the person you are with first before you can look at competing against someone else and beating them. But Daniel is a fantastic driver and it would be a privilege to race against him, he is a great character, he brings a lot of positivity to his team.

The arrival of Bottas this year helped calm the tense atmosphere which had developed between Hamilton and retired world champion Nico Rosberg during their three seasons fighting for the title. Hamilton says team harmony is the key to a successful team pairing.

"Our team has a great driver in Valterri who I enjoy racing with, there are a lot of great drivers here I would be happy to race against I don't mind who I race against, any driver in the world. As long as somehow you are able to maintain positivity in the team, hopefully you are fighting another team and that harmony is incredibly important for everyone to enjoy what they do."