Hamilton appreciates as Vettel jokes while Ferrari/Mercedes ponder on F1 2021
The driver line-up in 2021 could shake-up in 2021.
The final weekend of 2019 F1 season in Abu Dhabi GP had plenty of talks surrounding the 2021 season when players like Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are free in the market.
Both Vettel and Hamilton will be out of contract post the 2020 F1 season which has raised questions as to who will fill the either seats, but especially Ferrari as many already state that the British racer will be wearing the colors of the Scuderia.
Hamilton has been a Mercedes racer all his career, having started with McLaren when it ran with the German power. At the same time, he has never shied away from talking about Ferrari, a seat which almost all the drivers on the grid crave for, whether or not winning.
The F1 Abu Dhabi GP at Yas Marina circuit had plenty of discussions on Hamilton potentially joining Ferrari and the Italian manufacturer moving away - possibly - from Vettel. It will be one of the biggest moves in recent times if it is to happen.
When pushed to answer, Ferrari team principle Mattia Binotto admitted that the idea of Hamilton being up for grabs excites him, but he was diplomatic as well as he stated that it is too early to say anything as they have to prepare for 2020 first.
"Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver," said Binotto. "Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make us only happy, but honestly it’s too early for any decision, so we are happy with the driver’s we’ve got at the moment.
"I think certainly at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do." Binotto's sentiments were echoed by Leclerc, who was open to the idea of the Brit being his teammate, as he sees it as an opportunity to improve his skillset.
"At the end, we are in F1 and we want to fight against the best," said Leclerc. "I’ve had a big opportunity this year to have Seb next to me who is a four time World Champion and I’ve learned a lot from him and you can always learn from this type of champion.
Amid all this, Vettel could joke about it with the media as he targeted them sarcastically for even writing that the German is off from Ferrari at the end of the 2019 F1 season itself and making Hamilton a Ferrari driver already.
"I think I am already on a holiday next year," Vettel started. "I heard before that I'm stopping. I don't know who was the one, but they seem to know more than me, since, I guess, you journalists are always right. It will hit me probably in the next weeks.
"I think he's [Hamilton] already is a Ferrari driver. No? So, no change. He's a good customer. He has more than one I believe." Even as a joke, Vettel will certainly feel a touch worried about his future if he doesn't leave Ferrari with the persistent links.
At the same time, for Hamilton, he was initially just surprised to have heard compliments from his rival team, but he later elaborated that he plans to wait it out for now. His decision also will depend on what Toto Wolff decides to do with his future with Mercedes and F1.
"This is the first time I’ve heard of that. I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these thirteen years," said Hamilton. "I honestly don’t remember them ever mentioning me ever so thank you, I’ll take it.
"It doesn’t really mean anything, it’s all talk but it’s nice that finally, it’s taken all these years for him to recognise maybe but I’m grateful. Naturally 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, because we’ve been just driving straight ahead into the path that we’ve been on and the journey that we’ve been on and to be honest, I still think we’re on that path.
"I think there’s very little that’s going to shift it from that but I think there’s no harm. I know Toto 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, if it is the last period or stage in my career. Actually I want to keep winning.
"I want to keep being able to fight with these guys as well. I can’t really tell you what else is going to happen moving forwards." Completing the final piece in the puzzle, Wolff seemed confident he would retain Hamilton at Mercedes.
"I would rate [retaining Hamilton] at about 75%," said Wolff. "And, I give it a number because I think from the rational everything speaks for the continuation of the relationship, from both sides. But equally, there is a 25% chance that we are not in control of.
"So, we'll see how the next part pans out. Lewis and I have grown close over the last seven years. We ended up in Mercedes at the same time in 2013 and I think we have built up a lot of trust. At the same time, the two of us are part of a wider organization where everybody is playing in their relative field of competence.
"I think for him to say that is nice [that his future depends on me]. I’d also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future. And we are having those discussions about the future and I think it is very important between the two of us, like between many others that have played an important role within that team. Can I shed more light? No."
[Image courtesy: Mercedes] [Note: This story was co-written by Duncan Leahy on FormulaRapida.net]