FERRARI have opened the door to Lewis Hamilton joining them in 2021.

Hamilton’s £40m-a-year contract expires at the end of next season, but Mercedes want to negotiate a new deal with their six-time world champion, who is 35 in January.

The Briton has indicated he will see out his career with Formula One’s record-breaking team, but he has also spoken about the lure of driving for Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel’s contract with the Scuderia is up at the end of next year and it is likely the four-time world champion, who crashed with team-mate Charles Leclerc in Brazil two weeks ago, would be the fallguy.

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Asked if he was interested in signing Hamilton, a surprisingly candid Mattia Binotto, team principal at Ferrari, said: “Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver, and knowing that he is available in 2021 can only make us happy.

“We are happy with our drivers, but at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do.”

Hamilton has hinted his next move could be determined by the whereabouts of Toto Wolff, the Mercedes boss who has overseen five of his six world championships. The long-term future of the sport’s chairman, Chase Carey, remains uncertain, and Wolff, 47, has been linked with taking on the American’s role.

“For Lewis to say that is nice, but I would also like to know where he goes or if he stays,” said Wolff, back in the paddock for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

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

So, has Wolff reassured Hamilton on his own future? “We are having those discussions,” he replied. “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.”

Ferrari have possessed the strongest package since the summer break, but following a combination of driver errors and pit-wall mismanagement they have blown several opportunities to win more times than the two recorded by Leclerc, in Belgium and Italy, and Vettel’s triumph in Singapore.

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The fight for supremacy between the team’s two drivers has also led to a fractious atmosphere which came to a head in Interlagos. Both Vettel, 32, and Leclerc, 10 years the German’s junior, were ordered to explain their coming together, but both drivers escaped the embarrassing incident without sanctions.

Binotto added: “Was one driver more to blame than the other? It’s not important. They are two drivers fighting, and they can both make mistakes. It has been unfortunate what happened but it will not happen again.”

On the track, meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas crashed with Romain Grosjean in practice.

Bottas set the fastest time of the day’s concluding running before colliding with the Haas driver at Turn 11 of the Yas Marina Circuit. Bottas dived underneath Grosjean in the braking zone for the right-handed corner before the two made contact with both suffering damage to their cars.

“What the f*** was that?” said Grosjean over the radio.

Bottas pointed the finger of blame at the accident-prone Frenchman.

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“He drove into me and didn’t leave any space,” said the Finn.

Bottas later accepted fault for the collision and was reprimanded by the stewards.

Up until the flashpoint, Bottas had enjoyed an encouraging day after setting the fastest times in both sessions. However, the Mercedes driver will start tomorrow’s race from the back of the field following an engine change after retiring from the race in Brazil with an oil leak.