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Hamilton: Abu Dhabi 2021 not a deterrent for Mercedes in luring Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton says that any lingering animosity over the 2021 Formula 1 world championship fight and the Abu Dhabi finale controversy would not block Max Verstappen from a Mercedes seat.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2nd position, congratulates Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Hamilton’s move from the Brackley team to Ferrari at the end of this season leaves a prime seat available from 2025 onwards.

Mercedes has a strong focus on preparing its protégé Kimi Antonelli for an early graduation, and the young Italian remains a prime candidate.

One possible scenario is that Antonelli arrives in 2026, leaving the seat vacant for a driver willing to take a one-year deal, with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon among the potential candidates.

However suggestions that in the wake of the Christian Horner controversy, Verstappen may be open to leaving Red Bull – with uncertainty over the potential of the Ford-backed power unit in 2026 possibly encouraging such a move – has opened up new scenarios, with Mercedes an obvious potential destination for him.

Team boss Toto Wolff, who tried to sign Verstappen in 2014, was seen talking to his father Jos in Bahrain last week.

Hamilton agreed that Verstappen would be of interest to Mercedes, while suggesting that he doubted that the world champion would leave his current team, especially given that he is contracted until 2028.

“I think my move has shown that anything's possible,” he said. “There's going to be a really interesting next six months or so. I don't have an extra scoop.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

“I'm sure Max is on the list, but I'm pretty sure he's tied up, and also I couldn't see why you would leave the car that was that good.”

Asked if he was surprised that Verstappen could be a contender given the animosity around the 2021 season and Abu Dhabi in particular Hamilton insisted that it would not be an issue.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised, because he's a great driver,” he said. “I think even we spoke back then. Max in that moment, he did what he had to do, it was nothing on him, it was the sport that let us down.

“And I think that wasn't his fault. Me, in his position, I would have done exactly the same thing. So there's no issues there.

“I think if you run a team, you want to have the best driver, and you want to be the team that's got the driver that brings in the eyeballs, brings the sponsorships, and he is one of those.

“So I understand it, but it wouldn't make sense, I would say, for him. But it'll be interesting to see."

Hamilton was also questioned about suggestions that Adrian Newey might be unhappy at Red Bull, and thus potentially interested in a move to Mercedes.

Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer, Red Bull Racing

Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“In terms of Adrian, having worked within the team, I know obviously Adrian gets all the praise for everybody's work,” he said.

“I know he's a huge part of it, of course. But I know there are so many engineers in the background who are a huge part of developing the team and the car that they have. It's not down to one person. 

"It's not my decision. But I'm competing against him this year at the moment, so I can't really talk about next year just yet.”

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