Hamilton could favour Ferrari over Mercedes with new 2021 F1 contractby Jake Williams-Smith on 3rd December 2019
Lewis Hamilton says he is open to a new Mercedes F1 deal, but a shock switch to Ferrari could be more than just rumour
Hamilton may have a future in red if speculation is to be believed Photo: Motorsport Images
Will Lewis Hamilton move to Ferrari?
It's a scenario that looked increasingly possible as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend went on, with curious and non-committal messages coming from both Mercedes and Ferrari.
Hamilton was coy about the rumours too, perhaps as he weighed up the possibility of winning a championship with a third team; a feat that hasn't been achieved since the days of Juan Manuel Fangio.
The flames were first fanned by Mattia Binotto, Ferrari's team principal, who welcomed the prospect of Hamilton coming to the end of his current contract next year. A report from Italy then suggested that Hamilton had met with Ferrari earlier this year.
Hamilton declared himself flattered by the comments and Mercedes failed to dampen the speculation, with team boss Toto Wolff saying that drivers should explore all of their options.
The suggestions — and crucially the lack of denials — indicate that something has changed since Hamilton declared himself content with staying at Mercedes at the previous race in Brazil.
“Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver. Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make us only happy,” said Mattia Binotto at the beginning of the season-ending Abu Dhabi weekend.
His comments were quickly followed by a report that detailed two previous meetings between Hamilton and Ferrari president John Elkann earlier this year.
Those claims were not immediately rebuffed by the Mercedes driver either who said of the apparent meeting: “Everything that happens behind closed doors is obviously always private with whoever it is you end up sitting with but I think for many, many years I’ve never ever sat down and considered other options.
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“I know Toto (Wolff) is also looking at his options in terms of his future and only he will know what is the best thing for him and his family. So I’m waiting to see what he’s doing with that.
“I love where I am so it’s definitely not a quick decision to do something else, but of course I think it’s only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want.”
Though Hamilton had previously indicated he was intending to re-sign with Mercedes for 2021 and beyond, speculation over Toto Wolff’s future were very much a sticking point for the six-time champion.
In Brazil, Hamilton admitted that Wolff’s continuing on as team principal of Mercedes was not a certainty.
The Austrian team boss was honest with his assessments of Hamilton’s rumoured contact with Ferrari.
“I think this is a free world and I recognise that everybody needs to explore career options, and make the best decision for themselves. Drivers and everybody else included,” the Austrian told journalists in Abu Dhabi.
“So, I have zero problem, a racing driver will always try to be in the quickest possible car, and the quickest possible car is always going to try to have the best racing driver in there.”
Hamilton has been with the Mercedes team since the 2013 season and has driven Mercedes-powered cars for his entire F1 career.
The 34-year-old is responsible for 63 of the manufacturer’s 102 F1 wins, and has won the championship in six of his seven years at the team.
His current deal with the Silver Arrows is reportedly worth £40million per year and expires at the end of the 2020 season.
This article has been updated with the latest news on Hamilton's future. Some of the comments below refer to an earlier version.