Ferrari: Speculation about Hamilton move 'totally premature'

Lewis Hamilton recently met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann, sparking rumours he might leave Mercedes when his contract expires at the end of 2020. Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

MARANELLO, Italy -- Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri is flattered Lewis Hamilton has shown an interest in moving to the famous Italian team, but says it would be "totally premature" to make a decision on a 2021 driver line-up at this point in time.

Hamilton recently met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann, sparking rumours he might leave current world champions Mercedes when his contract expires at the end of 2020. Camilleri, who was speaking at a Christmas lunch with select media in Maranello, played down Elkann's meeting, saying it was at a social event organised by common friends and has "been blown somewhat out of proportion".

Hamilton is keeping his options open after 2021 and recently said, "I think it's only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want", while his Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, believes there is a 75 percent chance his team will retain Hamilton in 2021.

If the sensational swap were to happen, Hamilton would replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, whose current contract also expires at the end of 2020, and partner Charles Leclerc, who is on a long-term deal.

When the question of Hamilton joining Ferrari was posed to Camilleri on Wednesday, he said: "You may be somewhat disappointed by this answer. The fact is we have a long-term agreement with one driver [Leclerc] and with the other driver [Vettel] the agreement expires at the end of 2020.

"We clearly are very flattered that Lewis in particular, and other drivers want to come and join us, but it would be premature to decide anything today. It would be premature to decide anything now for the future."

Camilleri added that he and team principal Mattia Binotto would make the decision on the team's driver line-up in 2021 and that neither had held talks with Hamilton.

Pushed on whether the six-time world champion would be a good fit for Ferrari, Camilleri added: "Honestly, I don't want to go there. You are trying to push a bit too hard on the Lewis story.

"As we said, it's totally premature and we'll look at our options at the appropriate time and we will see what is the best fit for us as a team. I'm not prepared to go."

If Hamilton made the switch to Ferrari, it would leave Vettel, a four-time world champion, looking for a drive elsewhere or facing retirement. Vettel had a difficult season with Ferrari this year and a number of mistakes saw him drop behind teammate Leclerc in the drivers' standings before the pair collided on track at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Binotto added that Ferrari had not yet had a discussion with Vettel about his future, but that his recent mistakes would not rule him out of contract extension.

"I think that with Seb we need to sit down to discuss ways to understand his intentions for the future," the Ferrari team principal said. "I think we need to see our strategy developing next year. I think we need to see as well the performance and how he fits with the car and his motivation for the future.

"So, it's not about his mistakes or not. It's really a matter of how he does see himself as far as his future and how we do see our lineup."