Lewis Hamilton is still weighing up his options for 2021 in Formula One but he knows his Mercedes seat is the most coveted on the grid, evidenced by his claim that Max Verstappen has already reached out to team boss Toto Wolff.
Hamilton's future beyond 2020 has become a hot topic, with the world champion set to enter a contract year with Mercedes. Speculation of a possible move to Ferrari intensified during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when it emerged that Hamilton recently met company president John Elkann.
The topic was put to Hamilton on Friday at the FIA gala in Paris, where he will receive his sixth world championship trophy. Hamilton suggested Verstappen, who had faced the press just before in his own media session, is one of the drivers hoping to benefit from any move Hamilton would make away from the team which has dominated the modern era.
"It's an interesting time because there are lot of drivers who are seeking positions everywhere," Hamilton said. "The amount of calls that Toto gets from drivers -- including the one that was up here just recently -- asking to come, everyone's thing [is] to leave their team to come to where we are. ... Which is an understandable thing, because everybody wants to win and everybody wants to be a part of a winning formula."
Hamilton has regularly said a move away from Mercedes, a company that has supported his racing ambitions since the age of 13, would be difficult.
He reiterated that on Friday but, when asked how crucial Wolff's future is in determining his next step, Hamilton said: "I don't know, I've not really put a lot of energy towards it. I love where I am, I love the people that I work with, so it's really difficult to walk away from something that 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 being anywhere else. What we've built over the period that I've been there, in the last seven years -- but obviously Mercedes have been working longer than that -- at the moment is dominant. It's a strong force and I think it's taken us time to build the strength in depth from within and have the consistency we have.
"It's not something that has just come overnight, and other teams don't currently have the togetherness that we have in place. It takes time to build those things.
"Would it be the same without Toto? I don't think so. But he's got to do what's right for him. And just like I'll know what's right for me when I have to make that decision, he has to make the right decision for him and what's best for him and his family and his future. Change is also sometimes a good thing."
Wolff also spoke on the issue and said neither party will rush to a decision on what to do next
"This is a process that is going to take a little bit of time, but I don't see any surprises actually as it stands," Wolff said. "The two of us have been together for quite a while, we trust each other, we have gone through difficult times together and we have come out stronger with a better bond. Besides us, there are many others which form part of that inner circle within the team. So of course we talk all the time where we see the team going and Lewis' career going."
He added: "In terms of the silly season, it's normal: You guys [the media] drop us little grenades, sometimes we pick them up and they explode in our hand and it's part of the narrative. It's good that over the winter these talks happen, but at the same time the two of us talk all the time about it. There have never been any surprises; when things come out in the press, it was weeks or months that we knew about each other what our thinking was. It's part of Formula One, I guess."