Charles Leclerc: Lewis Hamilton ‘never out of the question’ for title fights

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton congratulates Charles Leclerc. Bahrain March 2022

Lewis Hamilton gives Charles Leclerc a pat as he congratulates the Ferrari driver. Bahrain March 2022

Charles Leclerc has backed Lewis Hamilton to bounce back from his win-less 2022 campaign, confident the Briton will be in the title fight if Mercedes give him a car capable of winning races.

Hamilton recorded his first-ever season without a single win in last season, the seven-time World Champion paying the price for a bouncing W13.

Although he did come close a few times in the latter part of the championship, it was his team-mate George Russell who clinched Mercedes’ only win in a disappointing season.

But no-one is predicting that Hamilton, nor Mercedes, will put in a repeat performance this season.

As they took the covers off the 2023 W14 at the Silverstone circuit on Wednesday, rivals have backed the Brackley squad to rebound with Leclerc adamant Hamilton is never out of the fight.

“Lewis will never be out of of question for championship fights,” the Ferrari driver insisted to Sky Sports.

“I’m pretty sure that if he has the car, he will be there.

“We must not forget what he has achieved in the sport and he still has it. We’ve seen it plenty of times last year.

“So no, Lewis will be there, like Red Bull will be too, and I hope it’s going to be a great fight.”

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That’s a sentiment echoed by reigning World Champion Max Verstappen, the driver who ended Hamilton’s reign back in 2021.

“Of course he is [a threat],” said the Red Bull driver. “He’s one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport.

“If he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again.”

But that’s what it comes down to, ‘the car’

While Formula 1 fans are relishing the prospect of a three-team fight for the championship titles, the drivers at the top three teams more than capable of doing so, it will depend on the cars.

Last season Mercedes’ W13 let down Hamilton and George Russell while Ferrari’s F1-75 was fast over a single lap, but had an unreliable engine that meant the team had to turn down the power on Sundays.

It the team doesn’t produce the car, the driver cannot get the results. That’s been the story since the early days of Formula 1 and it will continue through to the sport’s end.

Yes the driver has a part to play but unless he has a race-winning car underneath him there’s nothing he can do about it. That was clear last season when Hamilton didn’t even win a single race.

It’s safe to say the seven-time World Champion didn’t go from fighting for the 2021 title through to the very last lap of that season only to forget how to win races. His lack of P1s was all down to the car.

So if F1 wants a three-team fight, or even a four or five, then that’s the number of teams that need to design a race-winning car and then may the best driver win.