Hamilton all smiles after first compliment from Ferrari

Ferrari's kind words about potential 2021 free agent Lewis Hamilton have been warmly received by the reigning Formula One world champion.

Hamilton insisted his focus was on ending the season in style on Sunday before he discussed his contract with Mercedes.   -  Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton said he has "always appreciated" Ferrari after its team principal Mattia Binotto said they would be "happy" if the reigning Formula One world champion became available to sign following next season.

Six-time world champion Hamilton is under contract with Mercedes for 2020 but his future beyond that became a topic of discussion this week when he suggested his next move may depend on what his team's chief Toto Wolff does.

Binotto then admitted the possibility of Hamilton becoming available for 2021 "can only make us happy" in a public flirtation with the 34-year-old Briton.

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Those comments were warmly received by Hamilton, who claimed his first pole position in 10 Grands Prix in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

"I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these 13 years," he told reporters.

"I honestly don't remember them ever mentioning me ever so thank you, I'll take it, doesn't really mean anything, it's all talk.

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"It's taken all these years for him to recognise maybe, but I'm grateful."

Ferrari hax not had a driver win the world title since Kimi Raikkonen did so in its car in 2007, and its 2019 campaign has been blighted by Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel's struggle for supremacy.

Hamilton insisted his focus was on ending the season in style on Sunday before he discussed his contract with Mercedes, though he did reveal his admiration for Ferrari, F1's most successful team.

"It's positive," he said of the compliments.

"I think it's never a waste of time to ever being nice to someone.

"It has been a long, long time and a team that I've always appreciated over the years, so to earn their respect from someone from there who's obviously very high up is obviously not a bad thing.

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"I think they've got two great drivers as is so who knows what the driver market's going to be doing over the next year.

"I'm not really focused on that right this second: trying to make sure I finish off strong. I've got this incredible group of people who hire me where I am and I feel like I just continue to owe it to them to give my heart to them and my energy 100 per cent to them, particularly as I'm still in contract and negotiations haven't started yet.

"I honestly don't know how the next phase of the months is going to go when it comes to contract. It's very odd that you have to do it almost a year before it ends and it can't be done towards the end but that's just the way it goes, but we shall see."

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