Lewis Hamilton says that a move to Ferrari was never meant to be after talks the team last year failed to result in a switch from Mercedes.
The seven-time world champion is out of contract at the end of this season but widely expected to agree a new deal in the near future now the 2020 championship is decided. Hamilton held talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ferrari chairman John Elkann last year, but a move was firmly ruled out once Sebastian Vettel was replaced by Carlos Sainz, with Hamilton saying a switch for himself never lined up.
“Firstly I was never close at all to ever leaving my team,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s only right that as drivers and as people that when you’re looking at your next phase and committing to a time in your life, you have to analyze what your options are and make sure you have done your due diligence and have the pros and cons.
“I don’t necessarily know whether our values are aligned and timing… It just wasn’t meant to be. I’m not bothered by it. I’m proud and grateful for the journey that I have with Mercedes.
“Again, I think this is the only team in history of the sport where you’re a long-life family member. If you look at the older greats who have been there for their whole lives, they have been a part of the Mercedes brand, you are a part of the road of evolution and they include you in the family forever. Loyalty – which I have tattooed – is such an important value to me.”
Assuming Hamilton does sign a new Mercedes deal he will again be partnered by Valtteri Bottas, and he says the Finn deserves more respect than he gets for his mental strength.
“Naturally Valtteri has been getting stronger and stronger each year and the media have commented on Valtteri 2.0 etc and every year you can see him grafting and chipping away trying to raise the bar in so many different areas,” Hamilton said.
“You’ve seen this year that, while yes, the points gap is what it is, if you look in a lot of the qualifying [sessions], it was the smallest of margins. So closing the gap in qualifying, as he has done this year, has made it quite challenging – it already did last year, but I would say more so this year.
“In race trim, naturally, you can see that the consistency I’ve had this year is what’s made the difference. But if you look on the race weekends it was so close, but of course there is a points gap of seven points (between first and second) and if you have that consistently over a period of time … Valtteri was also unfortunate with reliability issues, so that makes the gap look even bigger than it is.
“People need to give Valtteri his due respect. You’ve got to remember who he is driving up against. It’s not easy being my teammate, but he comes in weekend-in, weekend-out never moaning or complaining about how the car is, it is always that he says he has to do a better job, and I don’t know another driver who does that here. I think that’s something we have in common, we come into these weekends with a fresh head and mentally he is one of the strongest drivers here.”