Lewis Hamilton future: Will the Mercedes star switch to Ferrari?

Could Lewis Hamilton bid farewell to Mercedes?
Could Lewis Hamilton bid farewell to Mercedes?

All the key questions regarding Lewis Hamilton's potential move from Mercedes to Ferrari as well as quotes from the Formula One legend himself.

An Italian media report claimed the six-time world champion has met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann on two occasions this year. Team principle Mattia Binotto also described him as an "outstanding driver" and that his potential availability could "only make Ferrari happy".

Hamilton, who turns 35 next month, was pressed on the speculation in the moments after he rounded off his championship-winning campaign with an 11th win of the season here in Abu Dhabi, while Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted there is a 25% chance his prized driver could switch.

The British driver is a free agent in 2021, with his current £40million-a-season Mercedes deal due to expire at the end of next year. Here we look at what Hamilton has said on the matter this weekend, quotes from Wolff and some other key questions we try to answer.

Lewis Hamilton on a move

After winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: "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. 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. I cannot tell you what is going to happen moving forward."

After taking pole position 24 hours earlier: "It is the first compliment I have had from Ferrari in 13 years. I don't remember them ever mentioning me before. It has taken all these years for them to recognise me, but I am grateful. It is positive and it is never a waste of time to be nice to someone. It is a team that I have always appreciated over the years.

"To earn the respect from someone that is high up at Ferrari is not a bad thing. They have got two great drivers so who knows what the market is going to be doing over the next year."

What has Toto Wolff said?

After the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: "I hope that our relationship continues but, equally, there is a 25 per cent chance we are not in control of. We will see how the next months pan out. We have not given ourselves a date, but we come back at the end of January, start of February and define the schedule as to when we want to discuss the future.

"A sports team is not static. It is dynamic. That means there is always going to be change, and change can provide opportunity. If one important member of the team breaks out, that provides risk, but also an opportunity at the same time."

After qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: "I am totally OK with that. It is a free world and I recognise that everybody needs to explore career options and make the best decision for themselves. A racing driver wants to be in the quickest car, and the quickest car wants the best racing driver in it. So, we need to push very hard to provide that.

"If we can do this, I am 100 per cent convinced we will have the best driver line-up. I am absolutely open for everybody to explore. My priority would be to continue this successful journey. But if that ends one day, I would be the first to cheer for him."

Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton
Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton

And what about the existing Ferrari drivers?

Should Hamilton make the switch, then it's 32-year-old Sebastian Vettel who would surely have to make way. Hamilton's long-time rival finished down in fifth in the 2019 F1 Drivers' Championship, and while he won the Singapore Grand Prix along with five silver medals, it was a disappointing finish with a retirement in the USA, 17th in Brazil and fifth in Abu Dhabi.

Ultimately, Vettel's younger team-mate, Charles Leclerc, appears to be the future of Ferrari - and he hasn't shied away from declaring his desire to drive alongside the sport's top dog.

"Of course I would welcome Lewis," said Leclerc, who finished third at Sunday's season-concluding race in the desert. "We are in Formula One and we want to fight against the best.

"I have had a big opportunity to have had Seb next to me who is a four-time world champion and I have learnt a lot from him so you can always learn from these types of champions."

Do Ferrari want Hamilton?

In Abu Dhabi, Ferrari admitted for the first time that they want to sign Lewis Hamilton. Fluttering his eyelashes at Britain's six-time world champion, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto described Hamilton as an outstanding driver. He added that he was happy Hamilton's £40million-a-year Mercedes deal is up for renewal in 12 months. Ferrari, Formula One's most successful team, are desperate to end a drivers' title drought which stretches back to 2007 and, seemingly having lost patience with Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton has been earmarked as the man who can deliver that elusive championship.

Would Hamilton want to go there?

Hamilton has made no secret of his admiration for the Italian giants, and in Abu Dhabi he did little to shut down talk of a move. Indeed, Hamilton refused to deny a report which claimed he had met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann twice this year. He also admitted he was flattered by Ferrari's very public interest. Hamilton owes much to Mercedes, having won five of his six world championships there since he ditched McLaren in 2012, but the lure of ending his career with the prestigious Scuderia could prove difficult to resist.

Are Mercedes open to letting Hamilton leave?

Perhaps the most startling revelation in Abu Dhabi was Toto Wolff's admission that he believes there is now a 25 per cent chance Hamilton will join Ferrari. Equally as telling was Wolff's admission that he would not stand in the Briton's way. Publicly, Mercedes say they want to keep their star driver, but there is no question that they have one eye on the future, too. Hamilton will be 36 in 2021, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen, also out of contract at the end of next year, is 12 years Hamilton's junior. Allowing Hamilton to leave would clear the way for Mercedes to sign the hugely talented Dutch star.

What happens next?

Mercedes team principal Wolff will sit down with Hamilton at some stage during the off-season to discuss the Briton's next move. However, Wolff's future at Mercedes is also uncertain - he is a leading candidate to run F1 post-2020 - and Hamilton has admitted that the Austrian's plans will play a role in whether he decides to stay or go. But do not expect a decision soon. Hamilton says he will not rush into making a call, and with Verstappen and Vettel also out of contract in 12 months, the fascinating 2021 driver market is likely to rumble deep into next year.

Formula One season results and standings

Formula One Driver Standings

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 413
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 326
  3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) - 278
  4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) - 264
  5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 240
  6. Carlos Sainz Jr (McLaren) - 96
  7. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) - 95
  8. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) - 92
  9. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) - 54
  10. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) - 52
  11. Lando Norris (McLaren) - 49
  12. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo Racing) - 43
  13. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) - 37
  14. Nico Hulkenburg (Renault) - 37
  15. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) - 21
  16. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) - 20
  17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo Racing) - 14
  18. Romain Grosjean (Haas) - 8
  19. Robert Kubica (Williams) - 1
  20. George Russell (Williams) - 0

Constructors' Standings

After Abu Dhabi

  1. Mercedes - 739
  2. Ferrari - 504
  3. Red Bull - 417
  4. McLaren - 145
  5. Renault - 91
  6. Toro Rosso - 85
  7. Racing Point - 73
  8. Alfa Romeo Racing - 57
  9. Haas - 28
  10. Williams - 1

Australian Grand Prix

Result

  1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

REPORT: Bottas wins opening race of new F1 season

Bahrain Grand Prix

Result

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Valtteri Bottas
  3. Charles Leclerc

REPORT: Hamilton prevails as engine problems cost Leclerc

Chinese Grand Prix

1st - Lewis Hamilton

2nd - Valtteri Bottas

3rd - Sebastian Vettel

REPORT: Hamilton dominates after fast start

Azerbaijan Grand Prix

1st - Valtteri Bottas

2nd - Lewis Hamilton

3rd - Sebastian Vettel

REPORT: Bottas holds off team-mate Hamilton

Spanish Grand Prix

1st - Lewis Hamilton

2nd - Valtteri Bottas

3rd - Max Verstappen

REPORT: Spanish cruise for Hamilton

Monaco Grand Prix

1st - Lewis Hamilton

2nd - Sebastian Vettel

3rd - Valtteri Bottas

REPORT: Emotional and eventful win for Hamilton

Canadian Grand Prix

1st - Lewis Hamilton

2nd - Sebastian Vettel

3rd - Charles Leclerc

REPORT: Dramatic win for Hamilton

French Grand Prix

1st - Lewis Hamilton

2nd - Valtteri Bottas

3rd - Charles Leclerc

REPORT: Hamilton cruises to French victory

Austrian Grand Prix

1st - Max Verstappen

2nd - Charles Leclerc

3rd - Valtteri Bottas

REPORT: Verstappen wins dramatic race in Austria

British Grand Prix

1st - Lewis Hamilton

2nd - Valtteri Bottas

3rd - Charles Leclerc

REPORT: History for Hamilton at Silverstone

German Grand Prix

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  3. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)

REPORT: Verstappen wins chaotic German GP

Hungarian Grand Prix

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  3. Sebastian Vettell (Ferrari)

REPORT: Hamilton reels in Verstappen

Belgian Grand Prix

  1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

REPORT: Leclerc claims maiden Formula One win

Italian Grand Prix

  1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

REPORT: Leclerc triumphs for Ferrari in Monza

Singapore Grand Prix

  1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

REPORT: Vettel ends his drought

Russian Grand Prix

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

REPORT: Hamilton back to winning ways

Japanese Grand Prix

  1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

REPORT: Bottas win frustrates Hamilton

Mexican Grand Prix

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

REPORT: Hamilton wins and on brink of title

United States Grand Prix

  1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

REPORT: Sixth world title for Hamilton

Brazilian Grand Prix

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  2. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)
  3. Carlos Sainz Jr (McLaren)

REPORT: Verstappen wins after late drama

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Red Bull)
  2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

REPORT: Hamilton finishes in style

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