Lewis Hamilton: Ferrari and Mercedes both offer temptation as F1 rumour mill goes into overdrive
The longer Lewis Hamilton’s future remains unclear, the louder conjecture grows over it.
He and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff both publicly insist his future lies with the team and talks will ramp up when both parties see fit.
But the lack of signature has only bolstered Ferrari in their chase of Hamilton with the offer of a £40million-a-year deal to join the team, albeit a slight step down from what he currently banks at Mercedes.
The reality is that a move to Ferrari is not about the money but the lure of driving for the most iconic team in Formula 1, exactly the dream Hamilton had as a child.
And the Maranello outfit knows that dreamy aspiration is the one way they can potentially get him to make the switch across the grid.
For Hamilton, Ferrari has long been an itch he’s yet to scratch, and it is the one outfit that he would end his career-long association with Mercedes for.
But the rumour mill is far from the reality and how possible is it that he could leave?
A big facet in all that was the last race in Imola to which Mercedes were bringing their first big upgrade package of the season. The revised W14 had to wait another race for its unveiling in light of the Emila Romagna Grand Prix’s cancellation and so all eyes are on Monaco.
Such are the vagaries of the street circuit, Hamilton and Mercedes might not get an entirely true picture of how much better their revamped car actually is until the subsequent race in Barcelona a week later.
Should Mercedes prove to have again not address much of the issues with its car and its lack of pace compared to Red Bull then Hamilton’s head might more readily turn to Ferrari.
But there a lot at stake for the 38-year-old in what will almost certainly be the last contract that he signs in F1.
With Mercedes, there is the career-long bond from his karting days through the junior formulae and with McLaren as engine supplier and now their fully blown works team, which guided Hamilton to six of his seven world titles.
In essence, Mercedes have put one major foot wrong during that relationship with the 2022 regulation changes, which has obviously had a seismic bearing on Hamilton’s hopes of an eighth world title.
There is a loyalty there and a financially lucrative lifelong brand ambassador role with the team long after he has hung up his racing overalls.
But loyalty only takes a driver so far in an inherently selfless business because Hamilton is only still in the sport because of his desire for that title No8.
Are Ferrari, though, any more likely to put him in a position for that than Mercedes? On the face of it, no. They have been shedding key personnel, they have not won a championship in over 15 years and other great drivers – notably Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel – have tried what Hamilton is pondering and come up frustratingly short.
Ferrari had been linked to a lot of key F1 figures of late although their ultimate goal of getting Adrian Newey on board failed when Red Bull’s technical boss signed a new long-term deal with his current employers.
Newey jumping shift would have certainly had a major bearing on Hamilton’s thought process.
Hamilton is right to sound out Ferrari. Whether he is truly tempted remains to be soon but, the longer Mercedes leave it, the more F1’s rumour mill will go into overdrive.