Lewis Hamilton admitted Thursday that he expects to struggle again in the early races this season, but hit back at observers who have suggested Mercedes' lack of pace is the reason he has not yet signed a new contract.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the 38-year-old seven-time world champion conceded that Mercedes are "not where we want to be".
"On a positive note, not having any bouncing is a huge plus," he added.
"We don't have that now so we can focus on pure performance."
He refuted claims made by former world champions Damon Hill and Jenson Button, working as pundits for Sky Sports, that he was considering leaving Mercedes if the team cannot regain a competitive level of performance.
He enters the final year of his current contract this season.
"I'm a fighter," he said. "And we fight as a team. I love the challenge of finding solutions and I still believe I am capable of putting the car in places that others perhaps are not able to and I love it, that challenge.
"Ultimately, it's people creating rumours without facts. It's never helpful. You would have thought they would have both known by now that I've been with Mercedes since I was 13.
"And having a difficult year as we had last year, I'm still here. And whether or not we have another difficult year this year, I'll still be here.
"Of course I wish that we start the season with a great car, but it's the journey I think that really counts.
"So, there is no hold up with our contract. I've always been very, very relaxed. I don't feel like I've got to get it done right this second. I'm in a very fortunate position."