Ferrari eyes Hamilton for 2021 (2nd Update)
|Will Hamilton wave goodbye to Mercedes?|
UPDATE (GMM) Lewis Hamilton has met twice in 2019 with Ferrari chairman John Elkann, according to Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The news comes amid a new firestorm of speculation in Abu Dhabi about Lewis Hamilton's future.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto started it by saying he is "happy" the six-time world champion is out of contract at Mercedes after 2020.
"I think that's the first compliment I've had from Ferrari in 13 years," Hamilton, who has driven for Mercedes since 2013 and won five titles in that period, said after qualifying on pole.
"I honestly don't remember them ever mentioning me so thank you, I'll take it. It doesn't really mean anything, it's all talk, but it's taken all these years for them to recognize maybe. But I'm grateful."
The back story to the Ferrari rumors is Hamilton's impending negotiations with Mercedes over a contract for 2021 and beyond.
Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius has indicated Mercedes will cut costs for the future, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has been linked with Chase Carey's top job at Liberty Media.
Hamilton continued: "I think they (Ferrari) have two great drivers already so who knows what the driver market is going to be doing over the next year.
"I honestly don't know how the next phase is going to go when it comes to contract."
La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Hamilton has actually met with Elkann twice in 2019. The report said Elkann and Piero Ferrari are "big fans" of the British driver.
Wolff responded to the exchange of niceties between Hamilton and Ferrari by saying: "I'm totally ok with that. It's a free world.
"Everybody has the right to explore career options and make the best choice for themselves, racing drivers included.
"We have to push hard to provide the drivers with the best possible cars. If we are able to do that, I believe we will have the best driver lineup," Wolff added.
"My priority is to continue this successful journey with Lewis but if that ends one day I'd be the first to cheer for him."
If Mercedes does need to replace Hamilton, it might make sense that Wolff starts making positive noises about drivers like Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who is also out of contract for 2021.
Wolff insisted: "We will not embark on a fishing mission with other drivers before Lewis and I have the discussion - and it hasn't yet taken place."
|Hamilton tries out the #1 in practice Friday. He's playing Ferrari like a fiddle to extract more money from Mercedes|
11/30/19 Lewis Hamilton has twice met with Ferrari president John Elkann during the 2019 season, according to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.
With Hamilton only currently committed to Mercedes until the end of the 2020 campaign, rumors and questions have been circulating all season long as to whether the six-time World Champion is tempted to wear Ferrari red before he calls time on his career.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said he was “happy” that someone of Hamilton's quality is currently available post-2020, sparking more discussion about the potential move.
And now Gazzetta dello Sport believe discussions have already taken place between Hamilton and the Scuderia.
'There have been two meetings between Ferrari president John Elkann and Hamilton himself during 2019,' the article states.
'Elkann is a big fan of Hamilton, so too is Ferrari vice president, Piero Ferrari, who is in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
'This is a courtship that has lasted for years. Even from the times of Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali, the interest in the English champion has been constant and is still very strong today.'
The report also claims that there is also temptation from Hamilton's side, too, and went as far to expressing his disappointment to Ferrari when they signed Sebastian Vettel up to a three-year deal back in 2017.
The article continued: 'Lewis has a profound admiration for the history of Ferrari, he is fascinated by the stories about the great Enzo Ferrari [besides having bought several cars] and secretly went to visit the Maranello factory a few times, having lunch with Piero Ferrari.
'Perhaps a promise could have already been made in 2017, when Vettel's contract with Ferrari was expiring. Lewis was upset as he messaged Ferrari with: 'Three years? I don't understand'.
'Then in a following press conference Hamilton came out and said: “Now that Vettel has signed, I too know what to do.”
Gazzetta dello Sport also stated that it is 'unlikely' Ferrari will continue with Vettel and Leclerc beyond the end of next season when Vettel's deal expires, creating an open seat alongside Leclerc who is thought to be contracted until the end of the 2022 season.
11/30/19 (GMM) Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has expressed interest in snapping up Lewis Hamilton for 2021.
In Brazil recently, amid rumors the absent Toto Wolff could leave Mercedes to replace Chase Carey as F1 CEO, Hamilton suggested his boss' future would influence his own decision about 2021.
"I think it's nice of Lewis to say that," Wolff said in Abu Dhabi, after explaining that he sat out Interlagos to do "normal office work".
"It was also an experiment for me to see how I would take it," he added, referring to his first absence from a grand prix since 2012.
Wolff admitted he is already having "discussions about the future" with Hamilton.
"Can I shed more light? No, for me it was important to finish the season in Abu Dhabi," he added. "There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter."
34-year-old Hamilton's current contract runs out at the end of 2020.
"Knowing that he's available in 2021 can make us only happy," Ferrari boss Binotto said on Friday, "but honestly it's too early for any decision.
"We are happy with the drivers we've got at the moment but I think at some stage next season we will certainly start discussing and understanding what to do."