Talk of Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari refuses to go away.
The chances of the six-time world champion moving to the famous Italian team from Mercedes dominated the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.
And now, Ferrari chief executive Louis Camilleri has admitted some talks have taken place.
Here, the PA news agency looks closer at a possible move.
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.
Now, Camilleri has gone one step further and said Hamilton has spoken to Ferrari’s chairman.
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.