Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says his rivals want to join Mercedes and that a top-line driver is among those calling team boss Toto Wolff about a move.
The six-time title winner is out of contract after next season, as are Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, existing Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc is also potentially available.
At the FIA’s end-of-season awards, Hamilton said the 2021 driver market was already throwing up intrigue, and that another driver present on Friday evening had been chasing Mercedes chief Wolff about a drive.
Verstappen, linked with a Mercedes 2021 move earlier this year, was on stage shortly before Hamilton was speaking.
Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who has made clear his interest in a potential F1 return in 2021, was also present as one of Toyota’s World Endurance champions.
“It’s an interesting time because there’s a lot of drivers who are seeking positions everywhere,” said Hamilton.
“I’m talking about the calls Toto gets from every driver, including the one who was up here just recently, asking to come.
“Everyone is trying to leave their team to come to where we are. Which is an understandable thing because everyone wants to win, they all want to be a part of a winning formula.
“But I don't think it's a stressful thing at the moment. There's always a clear pathway of communication between myself and Toto. There's never been any secrets and that won't change.”
Along with Verstappen and Alonso, the FIA press conference’s other single-seater drivers included Formula E title winner Jean-Eric Vergne, Formula 2 champion-turned-Mercedes FE driver Nyck de Vries and Alonso’s Toyota teammate Sebastien Buemi.
Hamilton has said before that staying with Mercedes, which has run him to five titles in six years, is his priority for 2021.
However, he reiterated that he has “not really put a lot of energy” towards making a decision, having previously admitted he was not looking forward to more contract negotiations.
“I love where I am and I love the people that I work with,” said Hamilton. “So it’s really difficult to walk away from something you love as much as I do.
“The team, the organisation, all the way through to the bosses.
“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13 so it’s really hard to imagine myself anywhere else.
“What we’ve built in the last seven years, obviously Mercedes has been working longer than that, it’s dominant, it’s a strong force.
“I think it’s taken us time to build that, the strength in depth, the consistency we have. It’s not something that’s come overnight.
“The other teams currently don’t have the elements we have in place. And it takes time to build those things.”