So, why did Hamilton to Ferrari suddenly become more than a pipe dream?

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As the 2019 Formula 1 season drew to a close in Abu Dhabi, off the track, all the murmurs were about whether Lewis Hamilton could really join Ferrari for 2021.

It's a move that for some is considered the last piece of the Briton's career because after all, all the greats drive for the Italian team at some point right? While for others the thought of the Briton is red is quite possibly the worst thing ever suggested.

Hamilton himself has never really expressed a desire to move to Maranello publicly but the questions have kept coming, including to Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto on Friday when he was asked about the availability of the six-time champion.

"Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver," he said.

"Knowing that he's available in 2021 can make us only happy, but honestly it's too early for any decision. We are happy with the drivers we've got at the moment.

"Certainly at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do."

And with that hint of possible Ferrari interest on hand, suddenly Mercedes was clearing the path for Hamilton to reach his holy grail.

"I'm totally okay with that. I think this is a free world and I recognise that everybody needs to explore career options and make the best decision for themselves. Drivers and everybody else included," team boss Toto Wolff said.

"So, I have zero problem, a racing driver will always try to be in the quickest possible car, and the quickest possible car is always going to try to have the best racing driver in there. So there is a good consensus between us [over] what we are trying to achieve.

"I am totally relaxed about the situation. We need to push very hard to provide the drivers with the quickest possible car and if we are able to do this, I'm 100 per cent convinced that we will have the best possible driver line-up in the car.

"And everything points to our relationship [with Hamilton] to continue, but in life, you never know and therefore, as I said before, I am very open about this."

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To that, Lewis kept it friendly and responded: "I think that's the first compliment I've had from Ferrari in these 13 years!

"Honestly I don't remember them ever mentioning me, ever, so thank you! I'll take it.

"It doesn't really mean anything, it's all talk, but it's nice that finally, it's taken all these years for them to recognise maybe, but I'm grateful."

Still not enough for some though, La Gazzetta Dello Sport took it up a notch claiming Hamilton had met twice with Ferrari chairman John Elkann this year, something that he himself then almost confirmed.

"Well, naturally everything that happens behind closed doors is obviously always private with whoever it is you end up sitting with," he began.

"For many, many years I've never ever sat down and considered other options because we've been on the journey that we've been on and to be honest, I still think we're on that path and I think there's very little that's going to shift it from that.

"But I think there's no harm in...," he added before pausing and changing tack.

"I know Toto is also looking at his options in terms of his future and only he will know what is the best thing for him and his family. So I'm waiting to see what he's doing with that.

"I love where I am so it's definitely not a quick decision to do something else, but of course I think it's only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want.

"If it is the last period or stage in my career. Actually I want to keep winning so I want to keep being able to fight with these guys [Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc] as well. I can't really tell you what else is going to happen moving forwards."

Two key decisions could well decide the final outcome one way or the other. The first is Mercedes' future in F1 after rumours they could pull out and also the fate of Wolff, who is out of contract post-2020.

"Lewis and I have grown close over the last seven years. We ended up in Mercedes at the same time in 2013 and I think we have built up a lot of trust.

"I'd also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future," the Austrian suggested.

"We are having those discussions about the future and I think it is very important between the two of us, like between many others that have played an important role within that team.

"For me, it is important to finish the season in Abu Dhabi. There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter.

"I would rate it personally – and I'm leaning myself out of the window here – I would rate it at 75 per cent," Wolff added on the chances of Mercedes keeping Hamilton

"I give you [that] number because I think from the rational, everything speaks for [the] continuation of the relationship, from both sides. But equally, there is a 25 per cent chance that we are not in control of. So we'll see how the next months pan out."

Through it all the man who Hamilton would probably replace, Sebastian Vettel, had the best response.

"I think he's already a Ferrari driver. No? So no change," the German joked. "I think he's a good customer. He owns more than one."

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