Charles Leclerc would fancy his chances more against Lewis Hamilton than George Russell in the same car in Formula 1.
That is the opinion of F1 commentator Peter Windsor, who doubts Leclerc could outperform Russell over the course of a full season at Mercedes.
Leclerc has been strongly linked with a future alongside both Russell and Hamilton in recent weeks, with reports over the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend claiming Mercedes had identified the 25-year-old as Russell’s team-mate when Hamilton eventually retires.
At last weekend’s Monaco GP, meanwhile, it was claimed that Hamilton could switch to Ferrari to become Leclerc’s team-mate when his Mercedes contract expires at the end of this season, with Ferrari president John Elkann said to be in “close contact” over an eye-watering £40million move.
Speaking via a recent YouTube stream, former Williams and Ferrari team manager Windsor believes that deep down Leclerc would rather partner Hamilton than Russell.
Asked by a viewer to compare the driving styles of Leclerc and Russell, he said: “I think George – as he does with Lewis – has slightly more edge to his driving, just a little bit more.
“Lewis has got softer, rounder transitions compared with George and therefore everything has to be pretty right for George to be as brilliantly quick as he is.
“But I think if there’s some sort of issue with the tyres – whether it be graining or going off, whatever it is – then you’re going to see Lewis or a Charles, with their softer touch, being able to have a wider sweetspot of driving.
“But it’d be very close. George is super, super quick and it’s a big thing for Charles Leclerc to go to Mercedes – if he goes – to put himself against George Russell.
“If you said to Charles right now – if he was here and you’re having dinner tonight privately – who would you rather have in the other Merc if you’re going to go, George or Lewis? He’d say Lewis, for sure.
“George is a serious player but he’s got slightly less margin for error and I think he drives very like Ayrton [Senna] actually, apart from the throttle [blipping] business.
“I think he’s right on the edge but there’s no margin really with George.
“There’s no margin with any of them, except that when something goes slightly wrong a driver who’s a manipulative, softer-input driver has got a little bit more of an area with which to play, whereas George doesn’t leave much. And he’s very quick.
“It would be a big problem for Charles to beat George at Mercedes. I’d be surprised if he does actually, because George knows the team, he knows the whole thing.
“So as good as Charles is, I don’t believe he would outperform George.
“If they’ve got a Championship-winning car and it was George and Leclerc, I’d put my money on George – in year one.”
Hamilton remains without a victory since the penultimate round of the historic 2021 season and suffered the first winless campaign of his storied career last year as Mercedes struggled under the new ground effect rules, with Russell taking the team’s only win of 2022 in Brazil.
Despite his woes continuing into this season, with P2 in Australia his only podium in the first six races, Windsor believes Hamilton has measured up well in the circumstances having been controversially denied a record-breaking eighth title at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP.
He said: “Lewis is not worried about George.
“I don’t like seeing [him struggle] because I think a guy that good [shouldn’t be in this position]. It’s not very dignified, is it?
“But having said that, I think Lewis has handled himself really well, as I’ve said many times [and] to the ire of some of my viewers.
“I think Lewis, given all the road dust he has and the seven World Championships he has – eight, it should have been – he’s done pretty well against that hotshot George Russell.”