Mercedes or Ferrari? Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton faces tough decision

Lewis Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes ends next year and may coincide with Sebastian Vettel choosing to leave Ferrari, possibly for Mercedes. (AP)
Updated 02 December 2019

Mercedes or Ferrari? Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton faces tough decision

  • Hamilton had little time to bask in the glory of his stunning dominance of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
  • ‘Naturally, everything that happens behind closed doors is always private with whoever you end up sitting with’

ABU DHABI: Lewis Hamilton has admitted he will be torn between loyalty to Mercedes and the novelty of a new challenge at Ferrari when he considers his options for what is expected to be his last racing driver’s contract in Formula One.
The 34-year-old Briton had little time to bask in the glory of his stunning dominance of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before being pressed to talk about his future and a possible switch from the Silver Arrows to Ferrari.
The six-time world champion was circumspect, however, in his answers during post-race interviews in which he declined offers to deny that he had already spoken to the Italian team’s chairman, John Elkann.
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes ends next year, leaving him free to move for the 2021 season when Formula One ushers in a radical new set of rules that may coincide with Sebastian Vettel choosing to leave Ferrari, possibly for Mercedes in a dramatic swap with Hamilton, or to retire.
Hamilton, owner of two high-performance Ferrari road cars, made clear that he is simply looking around to weigh up his options beyond next year when he may equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven drivers’ championship titles.
He also made clear that he is in no rush to make any decisions, a position applauded by his current team chief Toto Wolff who may also be considering his future when the sport shifts into a new era.
Wolff said he felt there was a 75 percent likelihood that Hamilton would stay and sign a new contract, likely to be his last as an F1 driver, with Mercedes — but he said also that there was a clear 25 percent chance that he may move.
“Naturally, everything that happens behind closed doors is always private with whoever you end up sitting with,” explained Hamilton after winning his 11th race this year, his fifth at the Yas Marina circuit and the 88th of his career.
“For many years, I have never sat down to consider other options because we have been driving straight ahead on the path we have been on. We are still on that path and there is very little that is going to shift that.
“I love where I am so it is definitely not a quick decision to do something else, but it is only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want if it is the last stage of my career.
“I want to keep winning. I cannot tell you what is going to happen moving forward. I love where I am so it is definitely not a quick decision to do something else.”
Italian news media reported last weekend that Hamilton had held two meetings with Elkann this year — discussions that Wolff appeared to know of when he was asked about his and the Englishman’s futures.
“I hope that our relationship continues, but, equally, there is a 25 percent chance we are not in control of,” said the 47-year-old Austrian, tipped as a potential overall boss of Formula One if he can be tempted to leave Mercedes.
“We will see how the next months pan out ... A sports team is not static. It is dynamic. That means there is always going to be change — and change can provide opportunity. If one important member of the team breaks out, that provides risk, but also an opportunity....”
As Hamilton was besieged amid the end-of season parties, Vettel joked and put the record straight after a season in which he was beaten by his team-mate Charles Leclerc and last week became a father for a third time.
The rising Monegasque star claimed Ferrari’s first win of the year, triumphed at Monza, secured most poles and finished ahead of the four-time champion German in the drivers’ championship.
Asked by reporters about his future plans, Vettel said: “Holiday.... I think I was already doing a holiday next year as I heard before that I am stopping... I don’t know who started the rumor, it seems they know more than me.
“But, since you journalists are always right, it will hit me probably in the next weeks.”


Djokovic survives scare as rain causes chaos at Australian Open

Updated 20 January 2020

Djokovic survives scare as rain causes chaos at Australian Open

  • World No. 3 Federer was briefly hauled off court while the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic survived a scare to join Roger Federer and Serena Williams in the Australian Open second round as heavy downpours caused chaos on Monday, forcing organizers to postpone a swathe of matches.

Defending champion Djokovic was made to sweat before beating Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in four sets on the first day, when fears over air pollution were replaced by disruption caused by rain.

In the late match, defending champion Djokovic dropped his first set since 2006 in the opening round before recovering to beat Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

“There is a lot of pressure and a lot of different emotions involved. I definitely try to remind myself to stay present and really enjoy,” said the seven-time Melbourne winner, who brought up his 900th Tour-level victory.

While play continued at the three stadiums with retractable roofs, half of the 64 scheduled matches were postponed, ensuring a big backlog for Tuesday.

Wet conditions are unusual for the Australian Open, which is more used to extreme heat and was plagued by smog from bushfires during qualifying, when players suffered coughing fits and breathing problems.

Air quality was rated “good” as the first round started on Monday but about four hours later play was suspended on outside courts when the heavens opened in Melbourne.

World No. 3 Federer was briefly hauled off court while the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena before returning to complete a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson.

Williams, on the hunt for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, won the first set against Anastasia Potapova in just 19 minutes as she cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 win in less than an hour.

“I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now,” Williams said.

However, Williams’ elder sister Venus was ousted in stunning fashion by 15-year-old Coco Gauff, who won 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 in a repeat of her first-round upset at Wimbledon last year.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens was the biggest women’s casualty on day one when she crashed out in three sets to Zhang Shuai of China — her fourth first-round exit in Melbourne.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was done well before the downpour as she dismissed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 in 80 minutes, smashing one powerful serve that broke a net fastening.

“It was really tough for me trying to control my nerves,” said Osaka. “It’s tough to play someone you’ve never played before in the first round of a Grand Slam.”

Later on the covered center court, Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty recovered strongly from a set down to beat Lesia Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

In the men’s draw, Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Federer en route to last year’s semis, crushed Salvatore Caruso 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.

Player anger over smog dominated the final days before the tournament, which is taking place after bushfires ravaged large parts of Australia, destroying thousands of homes and killing 29 people.

Tournament officials are closely monitoring pollution and will halt play and close the three main stadiums’ roofs if particulate matter suspended in the air hits PM2.5 200.

In other results, Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov argued furiously with the umpire over a code violation for throwing his racquet as he lost in four sets to Marton Fucsovics.

Croatian 25th seed Borna Coric was another first-round loser as he went down to experienced American Sam Querrey, while Australia’s Sam Stosur bombed out against Caty McNally.

But former champion Caroline Wozniacki, playing her last tournament before retiring, safely reached the second round as she beat Kristie Ahn 6-1, 6-3.