MEDLAND: Hamilton and Ferrari – wouldn’t it, may it?
I’ll admit it, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was not a basic, even when it did come alive within the closing phases additional down the sphere. Totally different methods all converging within the remaining laps and quite a few last-ditch overtakes (take a bow, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz) supplied an entertaining end, however when there’s a dominant winner, a race isn’t remembered fondly.
On this weekend’s case, nonetheless, the dominant winner was a part of one thing that may simply make it a memorable grand prix certainly.
Lewis Hamilton was at his best possible on monitor. He struggled on Friday as he experimented with new set-up methods and instructions, however then turned it round, additional growing his pole place report and waltzing off into the gap when the lights went out.
Nevertheless it’s not his efficiency behind the wheel that we have to speak about; it’s his efficiency behind the microphone.
When Ferrari staff principal Mattia Binotto was requested if he wish to signal Hamilton in 2021 — when the six-time World Champion turns into obtainable — the Italian was understandably well mannered and optimistic in his response.
“Lewis is actually an excellent driver, a unbelievable driver,” Binotto stated. “Understanding that he’s obtainable in 2021 can solely make us joyful; however truthfully it’s too early for any resolution. We’re pleased with the drivers we’ve in the mean time, and I believe actually at one stage subsequent season we are going to begin discussing and understanding what to do.”
The query was truly the second a part of one posed to Toto Wolff about Hamilton’s future being tied up with that of the Mercedes staff principal. Nevertheless it allowed Binotto the prospect to speak the Briton up for 2 different causes: Not solely may it doubtlessly destabilize the connection between Hamilton and Mercedes if the previous begins to doubt his future plans, it additionally acts as a warning to Sebastian Vettel to up his sport or threat seeing his seat taken by his rival.
If I’m trustworthy, at that time of the weekend it didn’t actually really feel like a large story on the radar, as a result of there have been causes for it to develop into one with none substance. However then Italian each day sports activities newspaper La Gazzetta ran a declare that Hamilton had met twice with Ferrari chairman John Elkann this yr, and the matter gained momentum.
Hamilton was requested about Binotto’s feedback and whether or not Ferrari is losing its time after qualifying on pole, and he was surprisingly open along with his response — simply while you would anticipate him to bat away such a query.
“I believe it’s by no means a waste of time to ever being good to somebody,” was Hamilton’s reply. “It has been an extended, very long time and a staff that I’ve all the time appreciated over time. So to earn the respect from somebody from there who’s clearly very excessive up is clearly not a foul factor. I believe they’ve obtained two nice drivers as is so who is aware of what the motive force market’s going to be doing over the subsequent yr.”
You would additionally take “somebody from there who’s clearly very excessive up” as being both Binotto or Elkann, particularly when given the context of his Sunday post-race quotes on the subject after being instantly requested if he’d met with Elkann.
“Naturally, every thing that occurs behind closed doorways is clearly all the time non-public with whoever it’s you find yourself sitting with…” was the primary a part of that response. Definitely not a refusal.
What’s much more attention-grabbing about the entire state of affairs, and what’s each including gasoline to the hearth but additionally elevating additional questions is the way in which Wolff has responded. The Mercedes staff principal stated he could be “completely OK” with Hamilton assembly with Elkann and “could be the primary one to cheer” if the connection between himself and his star driver have been to finish.
Wolff and Hamilton have a robust and trustworthy relationship, however Mercedes and Hamilton have an excellent longer one. To affix Ferrari would imply leaving the corporate he has raced for — below the McLaren-Mercedes title after which for the works staff — his complete F1 profession.
Mercedes’ future within the sport has come below growing doubt given father or mother firm Daimler’s announcement it could lower 10,000 jobs because it seeks to prices by round $1.5B by the tip of 2022.
Wolff has additionally been linked with Chase Carey’s job as soon as the F1 CEO and chairman strikes on, and maybe Hamilton sees that because the second to leap ship, or vice versa.
Alternatively, it could possibly be that the latest Daimler bulletins have made the Mercedes pair unsure and eager for readability on the staff’s future. What higher strategy to speed up that course of than to get folks speaking about the opportunity of one, and even each, leaving on the finish of subsequent yr?
Earlier than you even take into consideration total industrial agreements between groups and F1, it’s contract negotiation time for Hamilton and Mercedes, in addition to Vettel and Ferrari, and even Verstappen and Crimson Bull. The latter could possibly be the right substitute if Wolff stays, Mercedes commits however Hamilton goes. Ought to Hamilton keep put, would Verstappen’s latest feedback about Ferrari and its energy unit endear him to Maranello? In all probability not…
The motive force market in 2021 was all the time going to be enjoyable, but it surely has kicked off even sooner than anticipated. Massive names are beginning to maneuver themselves into place, and so they wish to know what their choices are.
So, may Hamilton to Ferrari actually occur? In fact it may. Sure, to have such hypothesis over Hamilton’s future on the market serves each Mercedes and Ferrari — for the explanations talked about earlier than — however solely at this stage. The rumors serves totally different functions, however between them have actually lit the hearth this weekend.
Which suggests there’s each likelihood somebody may get burned on the finish of all of it.