Big questions about Charles Leclerc and George Russell after Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari signing

Michelle Foster
George Russell with his hand on Charles Leclerc's shoulder. Hungary July 2022

George Russell and Charles Leclerc have big questions to answer in 2024.

Charles Leclerc and George Russell are two drivers who’ll have big questions to answer this season as they react to Lewis Hamilton’s shock Ferrari signing.

Both Ferrari and Mercedes will have new driver pairings next season after Hamilton announced he would leave Brackley at the end of this season to head to Maranello.

His decision not only spelled the end of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari career with the Spaniard left without a drive for the 2025 season, but it also has Mercedes scrambling for a replacement driver.

Charles Leclerc is one driver who’s under pressure to perform in 2024

But while it may seem Sainz is the one under pressure as he seeks pastures new, Sky Sports presenter Simon Lazenby questions if it’s not his team-mate Leclerc who is facing the bigger trial.

The driver who Ferrari re-signed over Sainz, Leclerc not only has to prepare to take on Hamilton next year but he also has to show the world that Ferrari made the right call when deciding to retain his services.

“None of us saw it coming,” Lazenby told the Sky Sports podcast of Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari. “And that’s the beauty of it, that it caught us all off guard.

“And I think already it started to ask questions of what might happen to those and the pressure it kind of puts on.

“Charles Leclerc because if he was the de facto leader, and he’s been the golden boy for a number of years, all of a sudden you’ve now got this spectre of Lewis about to arrive.

“So can Carlos actually flip this situation on its head, put pressure early on Leclerc, outshine him, and then put himself in that shop window for others?”

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He also feels Russell has questions to answer, and those answers could determine who lines up his team-mate.

While it has been suggested Fernando Alonso is on the shortlist with his manager Flavio Briatore recently meeting up with Toto Wolff, Mercedes have a junior of their own waiting in the wings in Kimi Antonelli.

Lazenby reckons if Russell can show Wolff he has what it takes to lead Mercedes into the post-Hamilton era, that would open the door for Mercedes to take a gamble on Antonelli.

But if the Briton falls short of the task, Wolff may yet be calling Briatore to find out about his driver.

“And what for George now?” continued the presenter. “I think Mercedes and for him, they have a really important first half of the season.

“But if he can go toe-to-toe with Lewis, establish himself as a true number one, maybe they just take a risk on Kimi Antonelli.

“If he doesn’t, does that bring Fernando Alonso more into play? I mean, there’s so many questions that have come about.”

As for Sainz, Lazenby wouldn’t be surprised if he went full circle and returned to the Red Bull family to replace Sergio Perez having made his debut alongside Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso.

“I wonder if he may even consider going back to Red Bull,” he said of the two-time Grand Prix winner.

Read next: Christian Horner on Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari move: ‘Everyone was surprised, probably even Mercedes’