The man who never retired – Bernie Ecclestone – has scoffed at reports that Lewis Hamilton is being hunted down by Ferrari wielding a blank cheque, a team which is no ‘old-age’ home insisted the former Formula 1 supremo.
Reports gathered steam this week, including on our site where we reported that Ferrari chairman John Elkann is directly involved in the negotiations, and ready to pay up to $50-Million to ensure the Mercedes seven-time F1 World Champion puts pen to paper.
Ecclestone (said to be worth $3-billion, now farming in Brazil with homes in Switzerland and Ibiza) was asked by PA Media for his thoughts regarding 38-year-old, Hamilton moving to Ferrari for his final hurrah in F1.
Bernie said: “I’d be surprised that Ferrari would want to get rid of Leclerc to sign Lewis because they are very much in love with Leclerc. Lewis has said that when he does decide to stop he would still want to be connected with Mercedes.
So it would surprise me if he wanted to leave. And if I was Lewis and I saw that Leclerc is happy to leave Ferrari, I would think there has to be a problem there,” ventured Ecclestone.
Bernie: It’s impossible! There’s no chance Hamilton will leave Mercedes
“I also don’t know why Lewis would think he would be better off at Ferrari than where he is at the moment,” reasoned Ecclestone. “He knows everything well and truly at Mercedes. They know him, and they have a lot of respect for him so he couldn’t be better looked after anywhere.
“Ferrari is not a retirement home either. They want to win the world championship more than anyone. So personally, I think he will stay at Mercedes, or he will retire,” predicted the former F1 supremo..
Hamilton is contesting his 316th F1 race when he lines up for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion is already 63 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the 2023 F1 championship standings, amid his longest winless streak in the top flight.
Ecclestone, 92, continued: “I don’t know what has happened to Mercedes and how they have suddenly got in the state that they find themselves in at the moment. I can understand Lewis being frustrated because he has been there for all that time and done well for Mercedes and for himself. But his contract is a lot of money to walk away from and that is a big problem.
“The only place Lewis can go to win that eighth world championship is Red Bull, but for sure there is no room there. It is impossible! There is no chance,” declared Ecclestone.
Lewis: It has never really been possible and I don’t understand exactly why
Hamilton has made no secret of his ‘romantic’ notion of driving for the great Italian team, in 2021 he said: “For many years, when I came to Monza, walking next to the fans … I could hear them saying: Come to Ferrari! This warmed my heart, but it’s pretty amazing that I’ve never driven for Ferrari in so many years.”
The Briton acknowledged that it is every F1 driver’s aspiration to suit up in Ferrari Red but is confounded as to why it did not happen: “It is a dream for anyone, a goal to be achieved. It has never really been possible and I don’t understand exactly why. I wish them the best and in the future, I will continue to prevent them from winning the world championship.
“I’ve seen photos of their drivers and red is always red. I have a couple of Ferraris at home. I can drive those, but not the Ferrari F1,” added Hamilton, who has only driven Mercedes-powered cars in F1, at first with McLaren (2007-2012) before switching to the works Merc-team in 2013.
Should Hamilton accept a move to Ferrari, that is sure to trigger a seismic reaction in the F1 drivers’ market as Mercedes will probably demand Charles Leclerc in return, or even Carlos Sainz for that matter, depending on who the Scuderia bosses will decide to keep when the Briton arrives at Maranello. If he ever does…
Meanwhile, Hamilton is expected to comment on the Ferrari reports and why the delay in inking an extension to his Mercedes contract, which ends this season, when he arrives in Monaco to face the media at the Principality, ahead of Round 6 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship at the iconic Crown Jewel of F1 venue on the Riviera.