Toto Wolff meets Ferrari chief after Lewis Hamilton quashes Mercedes exit talk
F1 preview: A lap of the Monaco Grand Prix
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was spotted chatting to Ferrari president John Elkann in the paddock at the Monaco Grand Prix a day after Lewis Hamilton rubbished claims that he could be poised to join the Italian team next year. Hamilton will be out of contract with the Silver Arrows at the end of the season and is yet to sign a new deal as things stand, although negotiations are thought to have been taking place behind closed doors over the last few weeks.
A report from the Daily Mail earlier this week claimed that Ferrari were trying to capitalise on the situation by tempting Hamilton to join the Maranello squad before next season gets underway. It was said that plans had been drawn up to offer the Brit a deal worth around £40million, with his representatives having already been sounded out by Ferrari for preliminary discussions.
It was also claimed that Elkann was eager to form a partnership between Hamilton and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari in order to give the Scuderia the best chance of battling Red Bull for the end-of-season honours from next year onwards. The 47-year-old was then spotted meeting Wolff and chatting with the Mercedes chief before the start of Friday’s practice sessions in Monaco, although it was unclear what the pair were speaking about as they stood face-to-face in the middle of the paddock.
It comes just a day after Hamilton quashed the rumours of an impending move away from Mercedes by telling reporters that he is close to agreeing a new contract with the Silver Arrows and insisting that he has not heard from Ferrari about the possibility of joining their ranks in advance of next season.
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“My team is working closely behind the scenes with Toto [Wolff], we are almost at the end of having a contract ready,” said Hamilton before he was asked directly if Ferrari had been in contact over the last few days, to which he simply replied: “No.”
Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur was also quick to pour cold water on the idea of Hamilton replacing Carlos Sainz at the team next year, with both of their drivers still under contract until the summer of 2024 as things stand.
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“As a joke I could say that two weeks ago you were sending Sainz to Audi, one week ago you sent Leclerc to Mercedes, now I am alone,” said Vasseur when quizzed on the speculation regarding Hamilton and Ferrari.
“You know perfectly that at this stage of the season each week you will have a different story and we are not sending an offer to Lewis Hamilton, we didn’t do it. We didn’t have discussions. I think every single team on the grid would like to have Hamilton at one stage, it would be bull**** to not say something like this.
“If I discuss with Hamilton, the last 20 years I discussed almost every single weekend with Hamilton, I don’t want to have to stop to discuss with him because you are chasing me.”
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