Lewis Hamilton has refused to hose down speculation linking him with Ferrari, admitting he is flattered by the Italian giant's interest.
Ferrari have ramped up their pursuit of Hamilton at the season-concluding race in Abu Dhabi by publicly wooing Britain's six-time world champion.
Italian media have reported that Hamilton, who is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of next season, has spoken on two occasions with Ferrari chairman John Elkann this year.
'YOU CAN’T WIN': Supercars champ's call to rival drivers
While in a further intriguing twist on Saturday evening, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff - whose own future with Formula One's record-breaking team is also in doubt - revealed he would not stop his STG40million ($A76 million)-a-year driver from entering into talks with their rivals.
Hamilton will start Sunday's race as the favourite to close out his world championship year with an 11th victory after putting his Mercedes on pole position.
But, in the moments after claiming the 88th pole of his career, the Englishman was asked for his response to Mattia Binotto's comments in which the Ferrari team principal described Hamilton as an "outstanding driver", adding that his potential availability in 2021 could "only make Ferrari happy".
"It is the first compliment I have had from Ferrari in 13 years," said Hamilton.
"I don't remember them ever mentioning me before.
"It has taken all these years for them to recognise me, but I am grateful. It is positive and it is never a waste of time to be nice to someone. It is a team that I have always appreciated over the years.
"To earn the respect from someone that is high up at Ferrari is not a bad thing. They have got two great drivers so who knows what the market is going to be doing over the next year."