Ferrari extended Kimi Raikkonen’s contract for another year, but there is no word yet on a new deal for Sebastian Vettel which has fueled renewed speculation that the German might be holding out to the last minute to see how things pan out at Mercedes.
But Silver Arrows driver Lewis Hamilton told reporters, ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, that he does not believe Vettel wants to be his teammate, “I think it’s highly unlikely that he would be here. I don’t think he wants to be my teammate…”
“I’m always game to race whoever it is and racing against the best drivers is always a great thing,” he added.
Hamilton’s teammates have included the likes of Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and this season Valtteri Bottas. At McLaren and Mercedes, Hamilton and his teammates have always been afforded similar equipment and equal status.
The Briton hinted to journalists that this is not how Vettel likes to work, “I’m stating the obvious, but I know he doesn’t want to be my teammate. He wouldn’t be in the position he is in now in terms of how the team operates if he was here.”
Hamilton thus hinting that the German is getting preferential treatment, over Raikkonen, at Ferrari as he spearheads the Italian team’s championship ambitions.
Earlier this year it was suggested that Vettel had signed an option to drive for Mercedes in 2018, but this has not been confirmed or denied by either party. But Mercedes chiefs Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda – are adamant that they are content with their current driver line-up of Hamilton and Bottas.
However the Finn’s contract has yet to be renewed beyond 2017. He was drafted in to replace retired World Champion Rosberg late last year, and since then has become a true team player, going about his business in a quiet, calm and effective manner, notching up two victories in the process while keeping himself very much in the title hunt.
Hamilton himself has no doubts that Mercedes are where they should be with their line-up, “I think the team is in a very, very good [place]. The last race is actually one of the best examples of how great the team is currently.”
The triple World Champion referring to the team orders dished out to both Mercedes drivers during the course of the Hungarian Grand Prix – to which they both abided without any problems.
Hamilton explained the equilibrium reached within the Mercedes team this season, “Coming into this season I haven’t changed a single thing that I do but there is a new element in the team and it works.”
“I don’t believe any of the bosses or any individual at the team is unhappy with what is currently in place, so I find it unlikely they would change that.”
The mutual admiration that Hamilton and Vettel enjoyed, at the start of the season, evaporated when the Ferrari driver swerved into the Briton’s Mercedes during a tense safety car period at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Since then it has become a cold war between the pair, which is unlikely to thaw any time soon.
Big Question: Would Lewis and Seb as teammates at Mercedes work?