Lewis Hamilton says he will not be rushed into a decision about his future after refusing to deny he has already spoken to Ferrari about joining them in 2021.
An Italian media report claimed the six-time world champion has met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann on two occasions this year.
Hamilton, who turns 35 next month, was pressed on the speculation in the moments after he rounded off his championship-winning campaign with an 11th win of the season here in Abu Dhabi.
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What a way to end the season. I’m so grateful to my team for the hard work they have put in this year, constantly raising the bar. But above all, thank you #TeamLH for your support. The positivity you give me is overwhelming and I feel your love from all around the world. We did it guys. 🙏🏾#wewinandwelosetogether
“Naturally, everything that happens behind closed doors is always private with whoever you end up sitting with,” said the Briton, whose £40million-a-season Mercedes contract expires at the end of next season.
“For many years I have never ever sat down and considered other options because we have been driving straight ahead on to the path and journey 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.”
Mercedes say they want to keep Hamilton, but team principal Toto Wolff will not stand in the Englishman’s way should he choose to end his career at Ferrari.
Wolff, 47, whose own future at Mercedes is uncertain, said: “I hope that our relationship continues but, equally, there is a 25 per cent chance we are not in control of.
“We will see how the next months pan out. We have not given ourselves a date, but we come back at the end of January, start of February and define the schedule as to when we want to discuss the future.
“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 at the same time.”
Max Verstappen finished second at the Yas Marina Circuit to cement his third position in the championship standings. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc kept hold of the final podium place despite his team being guilty of a fuel breach.
Following a post-race investigation, Ferrari were fined £43,000 after they declared an inaccurate reading in Leclerc’s car.