Ferrari have admitted for the first time that Lewis Hamilton has discussed joining them.
Ferrari's no-nonsense chief executive Louis Camilleri also scuppered any ambition rival boss Toto Wolff has of leaving Mercedes to run Formula One by stating that the Scuderia would be prepared to block such a move.
Hamilton's £40million-a-year deal with Mercedes expires at the end of next year.
And although Britain's six-time world champion refused to deny a report at the final race in Abu Dhabi that he has already met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann, Camilleri confirmed that preliminary discussions over one of the sport's biggest transfers have taken place.
"It has been made public that Lewis has had conversations with our chairman," said Camilleri in a revealing end-of-year debrief at the Italian team's Maranello headquarters.
"We clearly are very flattered that Lewis in particular, and other drivers, want to come and join us. Every driver on the grid would like to drive a Ferrari.
"We have a long-term agreement with one driver [Charles Leclerc] and with the other driver [Sebastian Vettel] the agreement expires at the end of 2020.
"It would be premature to decide anything now for the future. We will look at our options and see what is the best fit for our team."
Hamilton, who turns 35 next month, has indicated that his next move will depend on the future of Mercedes team principal Wolff.
The 47-year-old Austrian has been touted by the sport's American owners' Liberty Media as a prime candidate to take over from Chase Carey and run F1 beyond next year.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 24: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 24, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Formula One drivers, front row L-R: Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc, Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel, Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, Red Bull Racing's French driver Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen, middle row (R-L) Renault's German driver Nico Hulkenberg, Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, HAAS F1 Team's Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, HAAS F1 Team's French driver Romain Grosjean, McLaren's British driver Lando Norris, McLaren's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr, Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll, Racing Point's Mexican driver Sergio Perez, top row (L-R) Williams' Polish driver Robert Kubica, Williams' British driver George Russell, Toro Rosso's Russian driver Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso's Thai driver Alexander Albon, Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo's Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi pose for a photo prior to the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Glenn Nicholls / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read GLENN NICHOLLS/AFP/Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales talks to 14 year old Lewis Hamilton who is sponsored by Mclaren's driver support programme during his visit to McLaren's Formula One factory in Woking.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) ART
Felipe Massa (right) celebrates claiming Pole position with second placed Lewis Hamilton during qualifying at Magny Cours, Nevers, France.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks to Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the British Racing Drivers Club Awards, at the Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London.
(left to right) Nigel Mansell, Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and Damon Hill at the British Racing Drivers Club Awards, at the Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton is loaded onto a helicopter following his crash during a qualifying session for the European Formula One Grand Prix at Nurburgring, Germany.
David Coulthard (centre) with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Lewis Hamilton drives Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy round the track in a Mercedes SLR 7722 during the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium, London.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton celebrates after finishing in pole position at Silverstone, Northamptonshire.
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton in the pits during Practice Day for the 2013 Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in the garage during third practice at the Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona.
McLaren Mercedes' Jenson Button of Great Britain and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain in the pits during Second Practice Session during Practice for the Formula One Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Northampton.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory with his brother and his father during The Monte Carlo Grand Prix, Monaco.
Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2014, Lewis Hamilton, second placed Rory McIlroy (right) and third placed Jo Pavey (left)during the 2014 Sports Personality of the Year Awards at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow.
Nicole Scherzinger and Lewis Hamilton arriving at the British Fashion Awards 2014, the Colosseum Theatre, London.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton unveil the new Mercedes W06 during pre-season testing at the Circuito de Jerez in Jerez, Spain.
(Left - right) Lewis Hamilton, Rita Ora, Graham Norton, Ewan McGregor and Jack Whitehall during filming of the Graham Norton Show at the London Studios, south London, to be aired on Friday.
File photo dated 10-07-2016 of Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory with the crowd after winning the 2016 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
Lewis Hamilton asks NASA astronaut whether the moon landings were faked
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: (L-R) Singer Rita Ora, F1 Driver Lewis Hamilton, designer Donatella Versace and MMA Fighter Connor McGregor are seen at The Fashion Awards 2017 in partnership with Swarovski at Royal Albert Hall on December 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/BFC/Getty Images for BFC)
ALBERT PARK, VIC - MARCH 17: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport driver Lewis Hamilton (44) holds up the second place trophy at The Australian Formula One Grand Prix on March 17, 2019, at The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, Australia. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Lewis HAMILTON of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport on the drivers parade before the start of the 2019 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Second-placed Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton attends a press conference after the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
17th March 2019, Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia; Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix, race day; Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Valtteri Bottas wins first race of the year followed by his team mate Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Octane/Action Plus via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari and Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari look on at the F1 Drivers Class of 2019 photo before the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes takes a photo with photographers after taking pole position for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia (Photo by Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Lewis HAMILTON of Mercedes-AMG-Petronas Formula One Team greets fans at the 2019 F1 Season Launch (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) and team principal Toto Wolff (L) greet fans onstage during an F1 live event to introduce drivers and team principals in Melbourne on March 13, 2019, ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) is pictured in the Petronas Yamaha SRT pit at Losail track in Doha on March 9, 2019. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton is seen, outside Stella McCartney, during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020, on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton and Oprah Winfrey attend the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton and Stella McCartney pose after the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 02: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Lewis Hamilton arrives at the Tommy Hilfiger TOMMYNOW Spring 2019 : TommyXZendaya Premieres at Theatre des Champs-Elysees on March 02, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images For Tommy Hilfiger)
File photo dated 28-10-2018 of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: (L-R) Stefano Tonchi, Carine Roitfeld, Lewis Hamilton and Anna Dello Russo attends the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton and Winnie Harlow attend the 2018 CFDA Awards at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, NY, on June 4, 2018. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
TOPSHOT - Mercedes Benz's British driver Lewis Hamilton signs autographs at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City on October 24, 2019, ahead of the weekend's Grand Prix. (Photo by Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP) (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images)
Third-placed Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (C) chats with second-placed Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (L) and sixth-placed Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (R) after the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP) (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks dejected in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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But Camilleri says Ferrari would be prepared to use its veto to stop Wolff – who has presided over Mercedes' unprecedented run of success in recent years – being handed the keys to the sport.
"Anybody who has been an active and important player in a certain team within the last years to take on the responsibility at F1 would create a conflict of interest," added the American, 64.
"It would not be a good thing [that Wolff] should ultimately run F1.
"Our position is if [Ferrari team principal] Mattia Binotto was the candidate to replace Chase, the rest of the paddock would not be too happy.
"Our veto is the last resort tool. Should we be confronted with that [Wolff taking over from Carey] we would explain our position quite clearly to the folks at Liberty."
Ferrari's campaign was blighted by a series of errors by their drivers and strategical mistakes.
Leclerc's breakthrough season has also forced Ferrari to drop Vettel as their number one. The four-time world champion, who is paid £36million a year, would be moved on if the Italians signed Hamilton.
"Clearly Charles' performance has had an impact." said Camilleri. "That's inevitable when you're the world champion and this young kid comes along and has a phenomenal season.
"Charles has a lot of talent. He has surprised even ourselves as to what he has been capable of.
"Their collision last month in Brazil was a nightmare. However, the air has been cleared. And sometimes you need a crisis to put the goalposts in the appropriate place.
"Going forwards it gives Mattia a much better way of managing them because they realised how much they screwed up."