Damon Hill has warned Mercedes it needs to handle Lewis Hamilton with care otherwise he fears a similar backlash witnessed during stints of the 2016 season which could push the British star to leave the team for good.

Despite claiming two F1 world titles with Mercedes, while also helping them to a third F1 world constructors' title as Nico Rosberg pinched the drivers' championship last year, Hamilton has endured a turbulent time at the German manufacturer with a number of flashpoints.

Tensions came to a head when he and Rosberg crashed out together at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix with clear-the-air talks doing little to help as the pair clashed again on track a few months later in the climax to the Austrian Grand Prix.

With Rosberg stepping away from F1, having announced his retirement from the sport just days after clinching last year's title in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton is forming a fresh relationship with new team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and initial signs have been mutually positive.

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However, if Bottas interferes in a similar manner to Rosberg with Hamilton Hill fears it could push the three-time F1 world champion away from the sport for good.

"Lewis is an emotional beast and there might be a situation where he just goes: 'I've had enough and I don't want to do it,'" Hill told The Guardian. "That's true for every driver but some don't have the luxury he has, as he might be in demand somewhere else.

"He is in a strong position. Mercedes have to recognise they either want Lewis Hamilton, the asset that he is to them and allowing him the space to do his work, or they don't."

Hamilton has already made his feelings clear that he's unhappy to share data with any of his team-mates, while Bottas admitted he is keen to learn from the British driver to improve his driving, with the 2017 season opener one week away.

READ: Bottas feels it would be stupid not to watch Hamilton closely

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