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story.lead_photo.caption Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during Friday's second practice session at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The prospect of six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton driving for Ferrari in the future may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Hamilton is one of several F1 drivers whose contracts expire at the end of next year, and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto did not dismiss the tantalizing idea of poaching the Mercedes star when asked Friday if he would be interested in signing him.

"Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver," Binotto said at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. "Knowing that he's available in 2021 can make us only happy, but honestly it's too early for any decision."

Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc are also out of contract at the end of 2020.

So is Hamilton's Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, and Red Bull's eight-time race winner, Max Verstappen, thus increasing the prospect of a merry-go-round for the 2021 campaign with experienced drivers potentially changing seats.

"We are happy with the drivers we've got at the moment," Binotto said, referring to Vettel and the highly promising Leclerc. "Certainly at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do."

Although Hamilton has previously expressed his admiration for Ferrari as a marquee name in F1, the British driver has made no mention of wanting to leave an all-conquering Mercedes team which has won a record six straight drivers' and constructors' championships under the inspired leadership of team principal Toto Wolff.

Wolff and Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 — with Hamilton replacing seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher following his retirement — and they have formed a very tight bond based on the highest mutual respect.

Flatteringly, Hamilton even recently suggested his own future at Mercedes is linked to Wolff's future with the German manufacturer.

"Lewis and I have grown close over the last seven years and I think we have built up a lot of trust. For him to say that is nice," Wolff said Friday. "I'd also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future. Can I shed more light? No, for me it was important to finish the season in Abu Dhabi. There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter."

Bottas, too, is keeping his options for 2021 open after winning a career-best four races this season and beating Hamilton in pole positions.

"I can't remember a time when so many drivers' contracts are expiring. If I had to decide on my future for 2021 (right now) it would be a no-brainer to continue with this team," Bottas said. "There are many elements that have to come together, at the same time I have to keep my eyes open and be open-minded about the future."

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