Lewis Hamilton often likes to play things in a neutral manner. He seldom reveals much about his thoughts through his words, and this time was no different.

After an interview with the man in question, Autosport reported, “He’s open minded to the possibility of driving for Ferrari one day.

“You can bet it’s the only other F1 team he could realistically see himself racing for other than his current one.”

In a way, this makes complete sense.

Lewis Hamilton’s contract is up at the end of next year. He will be 34 by then and just enough time for one big move.

He may say that he wants to stay at Mercedes till he retires, and it’s a thought that makes sense considering the fact that the team is one of the frontrunners. But that doesn’t kill speculation, especially if Ferrari continues its upward surge.

Lewis said variously in his interview with the reporter that he is a “fan of Ferrari”, that the marque is “a super super cool thing”, and that the Italian team has “a special vibe”.

You will be correct to point out that more or less any racing driver talks the good talk of Ferrari’s special status. Many talk about harbouring a dream to drive for them and almost no one rules out a move. Yet, it’s slightly more complicated with Hamilton.

Trace your minds back to the summer of 2012. Ferrari fans had swamped the stage in the Italian Grand Prix, a race that Hamilton had just won. Yet, few seemed to be cheering for him.

Instead, he was subjected to vicious booing, him having been awarded apparently the ‘Prince of Darkness’ crown worn previously by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in turn.

Just 2 years later, we were back in the same place, with the same winner. This time, though, he was afforded rich applause and cheers, and instead it was his runner-up team mate Nico Rosberg cast as villain by Monza popular wisdom.

Almost any Ferrari incumbent is revered by the tifosi. They love their Ferrari pilots to be aggressive, determined and passionate. They like their drivers to have a hint of fearlessness to them.

Yet, they understand the human element too. They want to see the emotional side as well.

Perhaps only a few through Maranello’s gates have lived up to it entirely: Tazio Nuvolari; Gilles Villeneuve; Nigel Mansell. Likely you can add Fernando Alonso latterly.

Don’t these characteristics sit well with Hamilton too?

It’s no secret that he has taken much of his inspiration from Ayrton Senna. Nothing wrong with that, it’s his right. Yet, critics have argued that he is much closer to Gilles Villeneuve.

Just like Gilles, Lewis is a freehand artist. He relies on his instincts to get him through tricky passages of play. There are few who can match him on pure speed when all is going right.

There’s even a similarity in their imperfections. Both have a slight wayward quality, almost like they can’t quite comprehend their driving gift. Legend and scent of dramatic victory often are prioritised over safe points-gathering.

They are both rather brace too. It was a similarity that was noticed by Keke Rosberg ahead of Hamilton’s F1 debut in 2007. “He’s unbelievably brave – I mean, Gilles-brave,” Rosberg had said.

When he left an immediate calling card of passing Alonso around the outside of his first corner of an F1 race, it was one which Gilles would have been truly proud.

Then there is the similarity with Nigel Mansell, another Ferrari legend. They share many of the same attributes as both do with Gilles – unrelenting speed, aggression, fearlessness, spellbinding commitment.

Yet Lewis and Nigel share a few things just by themselves.

Scintillating in their capacity for thrills. Quite the aggressive overtaker. Quite the showman. Expert in working their public. Adored at their home race (where they always go well). If the sport’s commercial rights holders ever got around to offering a TV service wherein you could pick a single driver to follow for an entire Grand Prix then surely they would be the one you would choose. Drama, conflict and controversy seem, somehow, to follow them.

All through, you really could be talking about either Nigel or Lewis.

The similarities were noticed by David Coulthard after witnessing the appreciative reception Lewis got at Monza in 2014.

“In some senses, Hamilton is a little like Nigel Mansell,” said Coulthard. “When Mansell used to talk about the public, it wasn’t just a line. He really meant it. He believed they loved him and he really wanted to perform for them.

“In the same way, Hamilton appears to have the power of the people behind him – it was remarkable how the Italian fans were cheering for him during the race and afterwards.

“His heart-on-the-sleeve style seems to have connected with the public.”

The way career paths are drawn out these days, it is always a good idea not to say never. A lot depends on the coincidence of drivers and seats being available.

But still, if ever such a day arose when there was a spot at Ferrari, you can’t help but feel that it might well be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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