Lewis Hamilton has edged closer a blockbuster move to Ferrari that is set to stun F1.
Hamilton won the season finale in Abu Dhabi and admitted he is weighing up his options, refusing to rule out meeting Ferrari chairman John Elkann, The Sun reports.
Ferrari are understood to have identified the six-time world champion as the man to lead their team in 2021 as a replacement for Sebastian Vettel.
And while Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said he was keen to keep the 34-year-old, he admitted there is a 25 per cent chance Hamilton will now join the Italian team.
Hamilton said: “Naturally, everything that happens behind closed doors is always private with whoever you end up sitting with.
“For many years I have never ever sat down and considered other options because we have been driving straight ahead on to the path and journey we have been on.
“We are still on that path and there is very little that is going to shift that.
“But I know Toto is 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 am waiting to see what he is doing with that.
“I love where I am so it is definitely not a quick decision to do something else but it is only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want if it is the last stage of my career.
“I want to keep winning, and I want to be fighting with these guys. I cannot tell you what is going to happen moving forward.
“I love where I am so it is definitely not a quick decision to do something else but it is only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want if it is the last stage of my career.”
Hamilton cruised to victory in the Abu Dhabi GP on Sunday to cap a sixth title-winning season.
F1 will undergo a major rule change ahead of the 2021 season that could shake up the grid and end Mercedes’ dominance in the sport — with some suggesting the Anglo-German team may pack it in altogether.
Hamilton has sprayed plenty of champagne during his time with Mercedes.Source:AFP
Hamilton’s comments come after he thanked Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto for his positive remarks about his potential availability for 2021, describing it as the “first compliment” he has had from a team he has “always appreciated”.
The Scuderia dropped a big hint that they could move for the six-time world champion when Binotto admitted his contract situation “can only make us happy”.
“I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in 13 years!” a surprised Hamilton said after qualifying in Abu Dhabi.
“I just don’t think they’ve ever mentioned me … so, thank you, I’ll take it. It doesn’t really mean anything, it’s all talk.
“It’s funny, it’s taken all these years for them to recognise me. But I’m grateful.”
Asked if Ferrari were wasting their time by publicly courting him, Hamilton responded: “It’s never a waste of time to be nice to someone. It’s a positive.
“It has been a long, long time and they’re a team I’ve always appreciated over the years so to earn the respect from someone who is obviously very high up (there) is not a bad thing.”
Wolff insisted he was “totally relaxed” about Binotto’s comments, having sat next to the Ferrari team principal when the Italian made them in a press conference.
“I have zero problem,” Wolff told reporters. “A racing driver is always going to try and be in the quickest possible car and the quickest possible car is always going to try and have the best racing driver in there.
“We need to push very hard to provide the drivers with the quickest possible car and if we are able to do this, I am 100 per cent convinced we will have the best possible driver line-up in the car.
“I am very open about this. I am absolutely open for everybody to explore options.”
Will we see Hamilton wearing red in the future?Source:Getty Images
Meanwhile, Max Verstappen is warning Hamilton he’s out to take his crown.
The Dutchman finished third in the drivers’ standings despite having a slower car than Ferrari’s Vettel and Charles Leclerc, and had brilliant wins in Austria, Germany and Brazil.
Ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Verstappen said: “I’m not afraid of Lewis at all. Otherwise, it would be better to stay at home.
“If I was not here to win then it makes no sense being here, because then your whole attitude is wrong.
“It is good to have drivers like Lewis around you. He is a six-time world champion and won a lot of races — but I want to be in his position.
“I want for people to think it boring that I am winning every weekend.
“I don’t think I need to focus on his weaknesses, I just need to focus on being better at what he is good at — and that is consistency and speed.
“It is not about changing too much from what I am doing now. This year has been pretty good.
“I should not be ahead of Ferrari with the pace they have in their car. It shows we are doing great in getting the most out of the race.
“We just need to make sure that, as a team, we have a dominant car to take it to Mercedes next season.”
With Ben Hunt, The Sun and Sky Sports
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