Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes talked future possible Ferrari F1 move
Mercedes shed light on topic of conversation in last round of contract talks with F1's world champion; Could Vettel ever be an option for Mercedes?
By James Galloway and Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 14/05/19 7:44am
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed that the prospect of Lewis Hamilton one day potentially driving for Ferrari was discussed between them during contract talks last year.
Hamilton, in the first season of a new two-year deal, reiterated after winning Sunday's Spanish GP that he is a fan of Ferrari but admitted "it's very difficult to see myself anywhere else" other than Mercedes, with no plans yet beyond 2020.
But that does not mean Hamilton and Mercedes have not openly discussed such a hypothetical Ferrari scenario in the past.
"You need to always put yourself in the perspective of the other guy," Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after Sunday's race, which Hamilton won.
"As a matter of fact, most drivers dream about being at Ferrari one day so I'm playing through the scenarios and saying 'if you were to take this decision, what would we do?'
"[We had] a pretty open conversation."
The prospect of Hamilton not extending his glittering Mercedes stay during contract talks this time last year was remote, with the world champion eventually penning a new two-year deal last July.
But Wolff says the 'Ferrari question' was not avoided and insisted there would be "no drama" if and when Hamilton sought new opportunities.
"Even within the team we have discussed it, with Lewis we have discussed it and we have agreed on the topic," the Mercedes boss told reporters. "We had the discussion when we negotiated the last contract and I think that you just have to be open minded and understand that drivers will explore opportunities that exist and benchmark themselves.
"What I've seen strong between Lewis and us is that we have always been very transparent with each other with our discussions. At the moment, everything is great. I think we are providing him with a car that is capable of achieving his objectives.
"If we continue to have a car that is performing on that level I think there is no reason to go, and we would really love him to stay. And if one day ways part, it will be very positive and each of us will try to achieve success with a different setup. No drama."
Vettel an option in a post-Hamilton era?
Were Hamilton not to extend his Mercedes contract at the end of next season, then Mercedes would inevitably be linked with the grid's other big names such as Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari's current number one.
Vettel and Verstappen are also out of contract at the end of 2020.
Wolff was asked if he could ever see Vettel driving for Mercedes, in what could be an effective swap with Hamilton.
"Sebastian… why not Sebastian? Absolutely [I could imagine it]," Wolff replied.
"I think you need to consider that there is probably six or seven drivers out there that have the skill and the intelligence to deserve to be in a championship-winning car. Two of them are with us and I hope it goes forever, and then there is a few others that we really enjoy watching, and we enjoy watching them perform. Sebastian is definitely one of them."
'You always have to drop in the Ferrari name'
Hamilton was asked about Wolff's comments in Sunday's post-race press conference at Barcelona. Here's the full transcript below, with an added injection from Max Verstappen…
Question: Yesterday Toto mentioned that you and he had discussed you potentially going to Ferrari at some point in your career. After the start you've had to this season, and the start Mercedes have had, is there any reason… do you foresee ever leaving Mercedes, given how strong they are now and how dominant they are over Ferrari?
Hamilton: "I don't really remember what he's referring to. I think when you're in negotiations you always have to drop in the Ferrari name."
Max Verstappen: "You come out better!"
Hamilton: "You come out better. No, naturally in negotiations… Toto's a very intelligent man so we have great negotiations and great conversations and naturally I've been with Mercedes since I was 13, so it's very difficult to see myself anywhere else.
"I have never made it a secret that I've been a Ferrari fan, particularly Ferrari cars, and that's no secret. Do I plan on going elsewhere? I haven't made any plans for my future. At the moment I'm just enjoying driving with this team.
"I'm enjoying continuous growing with this team and, I mean, it's incredible what we're achieving together, what we have achieved in these six years, seven years or whatever it is, and I plan on working with this team to help it become the most successful team of all time. That's my current goal and my sole focus."
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