Lewis Hamilton has thanked Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto for his positive comments about his potential availability for F1 2021, describing it as the “first compliment” he has had from a team he has “always appreciated”.
Hamilton continues to be linked with Ferrari, F1’s most successful and famous outfit, for 2021 and 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”.
Hamilton’s current Mercedes deal expires at the end of 2020, before F1’s big rules revolution, and negotiations have not yet started on his next renewal.
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“I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in 13 years!” a surprised Hamilton said after claiming pole position for the Abu Dhabi GP, his 88th in F1.
“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.”
Hamilton’s present contract runs to the same point as the majority of the F1 grid, including Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The Englishman added: “I think they’ve got two great drivers [Vettel and Charles Leclerc] as it is, so who knows what the driver market is going to be doing.”
Hamilton also explained how he was still committed to Mercedes, who he joined in 2013 and has won five of his six F1 titles with.
“I’m trying to finish off [the season] strong,” the 2019 champion said. “I’ve got this incredible group of people behind me where I am and I feel like I owe it to them to give my heart to them and give my energy 100 per cent to them. Particularly as I’m still under contract and negotiations haven’t started yet.
“I honestly don’t know how the next months are going to go when it comes to contract. We shall see.”
Mercedes ‘totally relaxed’ about Ferrari links
Mercedes insist they are in no rush to start contract negotiations with Hamilton, preferring to focus on continuing their F1 domination in 2020 to show their star driver that he should not look to leave.
Toto Wolff, Hamilton’s highly-respected boss since his arrival at the Silver Arrows, 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.”
Given Mercedes’ success since Hamilton joined, Wolff is understandably confident about continuing the relationship.