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Ferrari’s Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel finally responded to rumours that were doing the rounds about him signing a pre-contract with Mercedes in 2018.

“I didn’t know about the rumours,” the German said at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

“Is it coming from Italy? Have you asked the Italians? They seem to know more than I do,” he added.

Vettel said his focus was solely on this season, but the absence of an outright denial may do little to dampen the rumours.

Vettel and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen are both out of contract at the end of the season while Mercedes hired Valtteri Bottas at short notice to replace champion Nico Rosberg after his shock retirement. The contract with Bottas is only for a period of one year though.

Mercedes has been the dominant team in the sport over the past three seasons and lead the constructors’ standings after four of this year’s 20 races.

Vettel, a four-time world champion, is 13 points clear of Mercedes’ triple title winner Lewis Hamilton after the German won in Australia and Bahrain.

Hamilton tasted success in China whereas Bottas won his first-ever Grand Prix in Russia. It took him 81 attempts to reach this mark.

With so many seats on the grid potentially available next season, rumours are swirling about who might be going where.

Asked who he would like as a teammate and whether he would welcome the return of his predecessor, Fernando Alonso, now with struggling McLaren, Vettel said, “At the end of the day, I’m signing my contract. I’m not signing other people’s.

“It’s not my decision but I’m ready to race whoever comes along.”

Double-champion Alonso will also be out of contract at the end of 2017.

Vettel said, “I think the way Ferrari is set up right now, we find ourselves very happy and the focus is on this year despite the fact for next year there is nothing on paper.”

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