Charles Leclerc snubbed for Lewis Hamilton but Ferrari driver’s future is safe

Hamilton opens up on plans to remain in F1 ahead of 2023 season

Charles Leclerc would be firmly second-best to Lewis Hamilton if both drivers ended up as team-mates at Ferrari, according to thousands of Express Sport readers who responded to our latest Formula One poll. Leclerc is widely regarded as one of the most talented drivers in the paddock but has endured a tough time at Ferrari over the last couple of years due to a combination of strategy errors and individual mishaps.

It has recently been claimed that Hamilton could end up joining Leclerc at the Italian team from next season onwards, although reports claiming that an offer has already been submitted have been denied by the Brit and Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur. It seems as though Leclerc would struggle to retain his status as Ferrari’s lead driver in the presence of Hamilton, who Express Sport readers believe would be considerably more successful than his 25-year-old rival.

A whopping 74 per cent of respondents to our latest poll said that Hamilton would win more races than Leclerc if they were team-mates at Ferrari, although it seems much more likely that the Brit will end up agreeing a new deal at Mercedes rather than joining the Maranello squad any time soon.

Leclerc will hang on to his lead driver status for the foreseeable future if Hamilton remains with the Silver Arrows as expected, although the former will be desperate to improve his form in order to start bringing the fight to Max Verstappen over the course of this year. He is yet to register any Grand Prix victories in 2023 and has received criticism for allowing mistakes to creep in at high-pressure moments, while there regularly seems to be a distinct lack of harmony between himself and the Ferrari pit wall.

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It remains to be seen whether Leclerc will ever be able to fight for a Drivers’ Championship title for as long as he remains on Ferrari’s books, with this season’s battle for F1 supremacy widely expected to be won by Max Verstappen. The Dutchman has been in a league of his own in recent months and is already over 100 points clear of Leclerc, who recently expressed hope for the future despite conceding that he is not expecting to fight for the title between now and the end of this year.

“Red Bull did twice [as much of] a step compared to us, so I think it’s more where we fixed the targets than anything else,” said Leclerc last month. “There are a few things that we’ve realised that should look much better for the future, and that gives me confidence for the future and now I understand a bit more why we are here now.

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“I’m confident for the future, probably not for the short-term because the gap to Red Bull is significant, but I am sure that we will come back. I don’t want to give a timeframe, but we’ll work as hard as possible for it to be quickly as possible.

“For the car concept, we are looking into it, and it is still too early to take conclusions out of it. It hasn’t worked the way we wanted, but that doesn’t mean we need to change completely from now. But we have some ideas on where we need to work on [to catch Red Bull].”

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