Jacques Villeneuve explains why Lewis Hamilton not the driver facing ‘make or break’ Ferrari test

Thomas Maher
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Jacques Villeneuve believes 2025 will be a make or break season for Charles Leclerc.

Jacques Villeneuve believes Charles Leclerc’s career is facing its “make or break” moment when he lines up with Lewis Hamilton.

Leclerc will team up with seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari in 2025, with the Monegasque set for potentially career-defining pressure to defend his place in the Scuderia.

Jacques Villeneuve: Charles Leclerc still ‘has to prove it’

With five race victories to his name, Leclerc’s achievements are dwarfed by Hamilton’s 103 Grand Prix wins, but the pairing is one of the most impressive on the grid as Leclerc’s talents surpass what his statistics suggest.

1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, speaking to GPFans, was asked whether he sees Mercedes’ 2025 driver line-up, which sees George Russell step up to the plate as the team leader, as similar to the dynamic at Ferrari where Leclerc has assumed control over the past few years.

“No, Russell was never brought into Mercedes as ‘he’s a champion, he’s achieved it all’,'” Villeneuve commented.

“No, he was brought into Mercedes as this young gun that still had to prove it.

“Charles was brought into Ferrari as a champion when he wasn’t because he was brought in from Sauber saying, ‘Well, he is a champion.’

“No, because he was beating someone in karting or whatever, that doesn’t pan out.”

Leclerc’s win tally is small compared to his pole positions, with the Monegasque having scored 23 career pole positions to showcase his speed over a single lap.

This display of speed impressed Villeneuve, but the French-Canadian reckons Leclerc still has a lot to prove as he goes up against the known quantity that is Lewis Hamilton.

“He still has to prove it,” Villeneuve said.

“He’s shown a lot of speed, he’s shown that he’s super fast, but he’s not the one who won the race for Ferrari last year. So it will be interesting to see how that balances out inside Ferrari.

“This will be make or break for Charles, not for Lewis.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi: Charles Leclerc suffering from Carlos Sainz’s performance

Leclerc has been outraced by Carlos Sainz in the three Grands Prix they’ve taken part in together as team-mates this season, with the Spaniard adding to his 2023 Singapore GP victory by taking the win in Melbourne.

With Sainz riding the crest of a wave of form, former F1 racer and occasional FIA steward Vitantonio Liuzzi believes Leclerc is currently feeling the pressure of trying to match his team-mate.

“I think Ferrari needs a couple of years to aim for the title, but it’s there,” he said.

“Leclerc and Sainz? I have to say that last year, in the second half of the season, I saw incredible growth from Carlos. He proved it with the victory in Singapore.

“I did not expect to see a Leclerc so under pressure and in trouble this year, he is suffering from the performance of Sainz, who will leave at the end of the season, but Hamilton will arrive in his place; therefore, Leclerc will have an important battle next to him.

“I hope Charles can find himself, he will be fundamental for the balance of the red car.”

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