Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari? Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – all you need to know
Minds in the sport are turning into the near although the 2019 Formula 1 year is not quite finished – and especially that of Lewis Hamilton.
Pretty much all the drivers have been out of contract so the 2020 transfer marketplace claims to be interesting. And Hamilton will be in the centre of this.
The world champion hasn’t indicated any desire but he has inevitably been connected with Ferrari off and on through his profession, and that weekend has seen the newest example.
Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport conducted on Saturday using a dash headline saying Hamilton had met Ferrari chairman John Elkann double this year, in just what the paper said was an effort by Ferrari to”talk up him”.
That followed group boss Mattia Binotto stating in a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Friday:”Lewis is an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver. Knowing that he is offered in 2021 can make us only happy, but it’s too premature for any choice.
“We are delighted with the drivers we’ve got at the moment and I think certainly at the same point next season we’ll begin discussing and understanding things to do.”
In F1, the driver transport market is known as the’silly season’. There has been a time as it happened in September and August before the year. It has been creeping but that is probably the very first time it’s started before the conclusion of the year before the individual in question has even started.
It’s a reflection of the fact so many names will be out of contract at the close of the year – Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes drivers Hamilton, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari are offered. The status of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is not as clear, as while he’s proven to be about a cope with Ferrari, its specific principles are not publicly offered. So maybe him, too.
Inevitably, the comments and also the Gazzetta narrative of Binotto proved a Significant talking point on Saturday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and Hamilton was asked regarding it.
“That is the very first time I’ve heard of this,” he said, referring to Binotto’s opinions. “I feel that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these 13 years.
“I honestly do not remember them mentioning , so thank you, I will take it. Doesn’t actually mean anything, it is all speak but yeah, it’s fine that eventually… it’s taken all the years for him to recognise maybe, but I’m grateful.”
Pressed on whether he would be interested in a move to Ferrari for 2021,” Hamilton said:”It is never a waste of time to be great to someone. It has been a team and a long time I’ve always appreciated over the years, so to make their admiration from there who quite high up is clearly not a bad thing.
“They have two great drivers because is, so who knows what the driver market’s going to do over the next year?
“However, if I’m really honest, I’m not focused on this right this second: trying to make sure I finish off strong. I’ve got this amazing group of individuals who engage me I am and that I feel like that I just continue to owe them to give my soul to them and my electricity 100 percent to them, particularly as I’m still in contract and negotiations haven’t started yet.
“I frankly don’t understand how the next period of those months will go in regards to contract. It is very odd that you have to do it until it ends and it can not be done towards the end, but that is just the way it goes. We will see.”
When Hamilton has been asked this question in the pasthe has consistently tended to emphasise the strength of his bonds using Mercedes, the length of time they’ve been together, the fact he has been encouraged by these since he was 12.
Back in Brazil two weeks ago, he explained:”When you’ve been using a group for such a long time, we’re kind of joined at the hip. Its time can be taken by all that detail. It’s no real strain, our word is our bond was all these years and we have always had that. Mercedes because I was 12 have stood by their name and vice versa.
“However, you will need to set some time apart to state ‘Where are we? What’s the next goal? What else are we planning?’ As it rolls for the future. And that in itself could be time consuming. And, sure, as soon as you have put something in place you are always’Oh damnitwe might have done this.’
“It is hoping to have as much discretion as you can. However, I haven’t found it distracting in the seasons once we’ve been doing this during a year, so it isn’t about rushing things.”
Hamilton will have a lot to weigh up when he makes this decision. He’ll want the most competitive car as he attempts to maintain winning as long as he stays in F1. But he will have a watch on Mercedes as a new and the strength of the connection and how much they could do together in the future, long after he hangs up his helmet.
At Abu Dhabi, Ferrari neither affirmed nor denied if Hamilton had met with Elkann ; a spokeswoman said she didn’t understand.
In Mercedes, team manager Toto Wolff was also asked concerning it, and that he said:”I am totally OK with this. It is a free world and that I recognise that make the best choice for drivers themselves and everyone and everyone needs to explore career options.
“So I am quite open about this. I’ve begun to embrace the simple fact that everyone has goals and needs to have the greatest possible chance for his career so in that respect I’m completely open for everyone. My obligation for the team would be to continue this travel, we are really benefiting from a healthy relationship.
“The way the values within the group are, loyalty and ethics are number one on the listing and understanding Lewis’ position and objectives will be key for any decision we consider.
“We will not embark on a fishing assignment with prospective drivers out there before Lewis and we’ve had that discussion. That has not taken place because we needed to wrap up this entire season and we all wanted to determine how it goes. We have a relationship that is consensual. We want both sides to be happy.”
There are complexities in this well – not least the fact no team is dedicated past 2020 to F1.
The groups are in negotiations within the provisions of the trades with F1 and have been around for some time. The uncertainty – and the intricacy of the global car market – has led to speculation regarding if Mercedes will stay in F1.
Hamilton said on Thursday:”Mercedes is here to stay.” Asked whether that was affirmation they would be in F1 past 2020, he added:”It isn’t an announcement but I am fairly sure Mercedes is here to remain. The board members are here this weekend so I will double-check them. They’re all hardcore racers and I am quite certain they wish to stay.”
All the indications at the moment are he’s appropriate because F1 functions for Mercedes both financially and in terms of exposure.
In 2018, the F1 team’s total budget was 338m, plus they spent 311m. Daimler’s price exposure on this has been taking into consideration sponsorship and other earnings.
And Ola Kallenius, ” the chairman of the Daimler board, said in an investor phone on 14 November:”F1 has been an activity concerning our marketing and branding approach that has paid off handsomely in the last couple of years. You have to check at these investments at a reasonable way.
“We consider all of our marketing and networking investment in terms of reach, cost and impact. They’re north of $ 1bn annually In the event you apply the Nielsen method to measure the media value of our activities. So an advantage and effect from this activity. And the costs – we would not want to disclose – are surprising low since a price and revenue side is in F1. We are committed.”
At the moment, the money will be ongoing in F1 in 2021 and remaining with Mercedes.
As Wolff said:”racing drivers are constantly going to try to be in the fastest possible car, and also the quickest car is obviously going to try to have the very best racing driver in there. So there is a consensus between us as to what we are attempting to achieve.
“We will need to push really difficult to supply the drivers with the quickest possible car and when we’re in a position to try it, I am 100% convinced we will have the best potential driver line-up and that which points into our relationship continuing. But in life you don’t know.”
Hamilton has got what he needed in Abu Dhabi far – a year in which the sole minor blot on his album had until this point been team-mate Bottas had more sticks than him to be ended by a pole spot.
Hamilton had made it very clear that irked him, so that he was delighted with a superlative lap to make them five each in relation to poles and which place Hamilton 14-7 forward.
He’s hot favourite, too, to take his 11th win of the season, which might equal his best tally for a year.
On the weekend’s surface so far and bottas was demoted to the back using a punishment for using engine parts , neither Red Bull nor Ferrari seem rather on Mercedes’ flat.
Verstappen explained:”We just seemed to lack a bit of traction in comparison to them. They’re always very dominant with this course and we are only missing a bit too much in this last industry.
“We need to be realistic and also I think Mercedes is so fast but we will give it everything we’ve got in the race”
However, Mercedes are cautious of all threats and while Ferrari were not competitive on the soft tyre in qualifying, Hamilton pointed out that Leclerc had staged second qualifying on the medium tyre, albeit Mercedes hadn’t done another run, and Wolff said Ferrari’s race speed on the hard in Friday clinic had also been impressive.
The Ferraris being with Leclerc starting on Vettel on the soft, and the moderate like Hamilton and Verstappen – on divided plans – also complicates matters.
“Red Bull was the strongest compared to us over the runs but Ferrari are rapidly on the straights and that gives them overtaking chance,” Wolff said,”and I think all of us will have a chance for the success tomorrow.”
The championship has walked however, the racing has been terrific for much of the year. Abu Dhabi is not famed for exciting races – to say the least – but it would be nice to end the season.
Not many would bet against Hamilton.