Bernie Ecclestone has advised Lewis Hamilton to quit Formula 1 at the end of the 2020 season, saying he should not go to Ferrari as he is likely to get beaten by Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton joined Mercedes at the start of the 2013 season and he has won five Drivers’ Championships with the Brackley-based squad to go with the one he won at McLaren.
His current contract runs until the end of next season and he has gone from saying he hopes to get a deal with Mercedes “sorted soon” to admitting his plans could depend on Toto Wolff staying with the team.
There are also suggestions that he would consider a move to Ferrari in the future with Sebastian Vettel reportedly the man to make way.
And former F1 supremo Ecclestone has thrown another scenario out there by claiming Mercedes could walk away from F1 if they win a seventh consecutive title next year.
His advice to Hamilton?
Walk away from F1 after winning a seventh title instead of battling young gun Leclerc at Ferrari.
“There has been change at the top and the new people are not so enthusiastic about Formula One as the old people used to be,” he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
“They might think we have won seven World Championships — which they will have done by the end of next year — so why stay?
“If I were Lewis I’d think, ‘I’ve won another title,’ and I’d stop. If Charles Leclerc stays at Ferrari, I’d put money on him to win against Lewis. He’s not necessarily better but he is established in the team.
“Ferrari is a strange place to work. Lewis doesn’t speak Italian. They might gang up on him — or fall in love with him — but I don’t think he would do as good a job for himself or the sport as he is doing with Mercedes.”
Max Verstappen is another driver whose long-term future remains uncertain as he is yet to sign a Red Bull deal beyond 2020.
“If Ferrari had a choice of Lewis or Max Verstappen I think they would go for Max, for the same reason they like Charles,” Ecclestone added.
“With Sebastian Vettel or Lewis they will only get a couple of years but with the younger two they might get 10 years. I’m not sure Max isn’t the best guy at the moment, including Lewis.”
One of the other reasons why most of the drivers have not confirmed their futures is due to the new 2021 regulations.
F1 will undergo major changes after next season with the sport’s rule makers hoping it will lead to closer, exciting races.
However, Ecclestone is not so sure the new regs will have the desired impact as he once again floated his medals idea.
“The regs won’t do what they are meant to do because the problem is the drivers sit there looking for strategy to get them from third or second to first,” he said.
“They don’t need to race. The people on the pit wall are racing more than the drivers.
“The one thing I would do is get rid of points. Keep them for the Constructors’ Championship but not the Drivers’ Championship. I would give them medals instead. Gold, silver and bronze.
“They would look so much nicer. It would be good to say you have a bronze or silver medal rather than that you have scored 186 points or whatever. Who cares?
“It would put us in line with other sports. It could keep the season alive longer, even if one person won most of the first half of the races.
“We have gone from nine points for a win to 10 and then to 25 so the records don’t mean much. It’s all a bit cranky.”