Lewis Hamilton: F1 world champion can complete legacy with daring Ferrari move

By Sports Desk December 02, 2019

As Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, it would be fair to wonder why he would ever contemplate the prospect of racing for a new team.

The Mercedes driver led from start to finish, recorded the fastest lap and won by a gap of over 16 seconds to Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

It was his 11th victory of 2019, matching his personal best total in a season, and was a win that came with his sixth Formula One drivers' title long since secured.

The final gap in the title race was a massive 87 points over team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen, the closest driver from an opposing team, ending up out of sight at 135 adrift.

Mercedes made an emphatic start with eight straight wins and while they were challenged by Ferrari and Red Bull in the middle of the campaign, they recovered to win five of the last six.

Hamilton was in a class of his own on race days, especially considering the pole he claimed at Yas Marina Circuit – a traditionally strong track for Mercedes – was his first in 10 races.

He goes into 2020, the final year of his current contract, as the clear favourite to triumph once more, with Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles now tantalisingly close.

Hamilton is loved by Mercedes, has the best car and a team-mate in Bottas who, unlike his spell alongside Nico Rosberg, has steered clear of controversy and would struggle to beat him over a 22-race slate.

Why then is the possibility of a move to Ferrari in 2021 even on the agenda? The next contract Hamilton signs could be his last and it is one that may prove legacy defining.

He is 34 but eager to continue for a few seasons yet, leading the sport into its new era of technical regulations, which come into play the year after next.

Hamilton's talent and achievements have not always been properly appreciated, nor his mental strength and competitiveness that often lifts him above rivals.

He has been booed by Ferrari supporters, while his personality has not always proved endearing to prospective admirers.

Earlier this year, Toto Wolff expressed his surprise that Hamilton is not more revered in his home country, the United Kingdom, in comparison to other sporting greats.

It is one of many factors that must make joining Ferrari, the sport's most popular team, tempting.

Ahead of the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, Mattia Binotto openly discussed his happiness at the possible availability of Hamilton.

Hamilton has repeatedly said he wants to see what close confidant Wolff does before deciding on his own future and explained after Sunday's win he would think about his options.

Asked about rumours he met with Ferrari president John Elkann, Hamilton said: "Everything that happens behind closed doors is obviously always private.

"But I think for many, many years, I've never, ever sat down and considered other options, because we've been just driving straight ahead into the path and journey that we've been on.

"It's only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want if it is the last period in my career. I want to keep winning and being able to fight with these guys. I can't really tell you what else is going to happen moving forwards."

With Sebastian Vettel's performances showing signs of decline it is Charles Leclerc, Ferrari's rising star, who would likely be Hamilton's team-mate. 

Leclerc said after the race he would welcome the challenge of having Hamilton in the same team, a move which could mean Verstappen – the other man set to lead F1's next generation – could fulfil his mooted move to Mercedes as their new number one.

Verstappen could alternatively continue to lead Red Bull if they show sufficient progress next year, but either way the 2021 grid would be a fascinating picture, with Alex Albon, Lando Norris and George Russell the other young stars in the mix for top drives.

It remains the most likely scenario that Hamilton remains with Mercedes and helps them to extend their unprecedented run of six consecutive driver and constructor doubles. He added to his comments on Ferrari by saying he still loves life with the team.

It would undoubtedly be a risk to leave that comfort and winning culture to join Ferrari, who have not produced a drivers' title since 2007, while pitting himself directly against rising star Leclerc.

But Hamilton must ponder how complete his career would be if he joins and wins with Ferrari.

The Briton has openly wondered how it would feel to have the Ferrari faithful roaring him on at Monza and ending the Scuderia's title drought would see his popularity rocket.

He timed his difficult decision to leave McLaren well in 2013 and another opportunity now presents itself.

Hamilton could end his career having seen off a daunting team-mate in Leclerc, surpassed Schumacher's now attainable records of world titles and race wins while winning the championship with a third different team.

If he does that, he would have a compelling case to stand clear of Ayrton Senna and Schumacher to be considered as the greatest driver of all time.

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    February 2019 - Sparks fly in Acapulco​

    Kyrgios' first meeting with Nadal was at the All England Club in 2014 - the then-19-year-old Kyrgios stunning the two-time Wimbledon champion to reach the quarter-finals.

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    Kyrgios responded by saying: "He doesn't know anything about me. So, I'm not going to listen at all. That's the way I play. The way he plays is very slow in between points. The rule in the book says he has to pay to the speed of the server, but Rafa has his speed every time, so I'm not going to comment on him. He's got his own game. I've got my game. We played well. That's the sport. People are different so I'm not going to take that into consideration at all."

    March 2019 - Uncle Toni takes aim at Kyrgios

    At Indian Wells, Nadal tried to quell what he said, but his uncle Toni reignited the fire as he got involved.

    In an interview with Radio Marca, Toni Nadal said: "Rafa is totally right. He [Kyrgios] lacks education and smartness. He should be fighting for the top rankings and instead, he is number 40. He does not look like a bad guy but he has been disrespectful too many times to get back on track."

    May 2019 - Kyrgios returns serve as war of words continue

    Never one to sit back and hold fire, Kyrgios responded in his appearance on podcast 'No Challenges Remaining' as the maligned Australian ruffled feathers ahead of the French Open.

    Describing Nadal as "salty", the unfiltered Kyrgios told tennis writer Ben Rothenberg: "When he wins, it's fine. He won't say anything bad, he'll credit the opponent, 'He was a great player'. But as soon as I beat him, it's just like, 'He has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game'.

    "It's not a good look for you, I feel. And then uncle Toni came out saying, 'He lacks education'. I'm like, 'Bra [brother], I did 12 years at school, you idiot. I'm very educated. I understand that you're upset I beat your family again'."

    July 2019 - Kyrgios and Nadal reunite at Wimbledon

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    "I don't care. Why would I apologise? I mean, the dude has got how many slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro. I'm not going to apologise to him at all," Kyrgios added.

    "I was going for him. Yeah, I wanted to hit him square in the chest. Like, he's got decent hands."

    January 2020 - Kyrgios impersonates Nadal as tension builds

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    When asked if he liked Kyrgios following Saturday's routine victory over Pablo Carreno Busta, Nadal's response was telling. "I don't know. I don't know him personally, honestly, to have a clear opinion," Nadal told reporters. "It's clear, of course, that when he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don't like. 

    "When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour, and I want my tour bigger, not smaller. So the players who make the tour bigger are important for the tour. When he's ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, is one of these guys. When he's doing the other stuff, of course I don't like."

    After earning a date with Nadal courtesy of a marathon five-setter, Kyrgios said in a news conference: "At the end of the day, we're two different tennis players. We go about it completely different… Regardless, if we don't like each other or whatever, I think there's a layer of respect. He's one of the greatest of all time. 

    "I also read that he thinks I'm good for the sport. There's a layer of respect that we both have for each other. Doesn't necessarily mean we like each other, but we're going to go out there and give contrasting styles and personalities.

    "I don't really know Rafa. I've never hung out with him or anything like that. So I don't really know how he is. I don't really dislike him. I don't know him at all. Hell of a tennis player. Don't know him as a person. I'm sure he's okay."

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    First round, 2000: bt Michael Chang 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-5)

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    Semi-final, 2004: bt Juan Carlos Ferrero [3] 6-4 6-1 6-4

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    Semi-final, 2007: bt Andy Roddick [6] 6-4 6-0 6-2

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    Last 16, 2009: bt Tomas Berdych [20] 4-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 6-2

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    Final, 2017: bt Rafael Nadal [9] 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3

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    1998, Second round: lost to Venus Williams 7-6 (7-4) 6-1

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    1999, Third round: lost to Sandrine Testud [14] 6-2 2-6 9-7

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    2006, Third round: lost to Daniela Hantuchova [17] 6-1 7-6 (7-5)

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    2020, Third round: lost to Wang Qiang [27] 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5

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