Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has said he believes Ferrari would rather work with Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen than sign six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The British superstar has once again reigned supreme in the sport for Mercedes this season, and his contract with the Silver Arrows is set to expire at the end of the 2020 campaign.
According to Jonathan McEvoy for the Mail on Sunday, Ecclestone said Hamilton should consider quitting the sport if he wins a seventh world crown, and Ferrari would rather collaborate with Verstappen if Mercedes decide to leave the grid.
Speaking from the paddock ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, the 89-year-old explained his thoughts:
"They [Mercedes] might think we have won seven world championships — which they will have done by the end of next year — so why stay?
"If I were Lewis I'd think, 'I've won another title', and I'd stop. If Charles Leclerc stays at Ferrari, I'd put money on him to win against Lewis. He's not necessarily better but he is established in the team.
"Ferrari is a strange place to work. Lewis doesn't speak Italian. They might gang up on him—or fall in love with him—but I don't think he would do as good a job for himself or the sport as he is doing with Mercedes."
Ecclestone explained he thinks Verstappen might already be a better driver than Hamilton, and the Prancing Horse might recognise this.
"If Ferrari had a choice of Lewis or Max Verstappen I think they would go for Max, for the same reason they like Charles.
"With Sebastian Vettel or Lewis they will only get a couple of years but with the younger two they might get 10 years. I'm not sure Max isn't the best guy at the moment, including Lewis."
Verstappen drove a sensational race at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on Sunday and outfought Hamilton on his way to victory.
The Red Bull man had earned pole position, and he flew off the line chased by Hamilton's car.
Both drivers swapped the lead multiple times, but Verstappen's aggression and tactics were rewarded with top spot on the podium.
Hamilton trailed in third but was handed a five-second penalty after a racing incident with Alexander Albon on the penultimate lap, demoting him down the order.
Ferrari are the dream constructor for most racers, and Hamilton would be tempted to join the Italians if Mercedes quit F1. However, a changing of the guard is taking place, and Verstappen and Leclerc are expected to earn future world championships.
Leclerc has already made strides since joining Ferrari, and Verstappen would have no reason to leave Red Bull if the British team can reproduce the form which saw them win the Constructors' Championship four times in a row from 2010.
The Red Bull was quicker than any other car during the race in Brazil, and the Milton Keynes-based team have the infrastructure in place to dominate F1 once again.