‘Don’t sign your own death warrant’ – Charles Leclerc warned ahead of Lewis Hamilton link-up

Michelle Foster
A smiling Lewis Hamilton waves to the crowd as Charles Leclerc looks on

Lewis Hamilton vs Charles Leclerc: a battle for the ages?

Ferrari’s defacto lead driver today, Marc Priestley has warned Charles Leclerc against accepting wingman status when he partners Lewis Hamilton next season as then he’s signing his “own death warrant”.

Next season, much to the surprise of the motor racing world, Leclerc will have a new team-mate after Hamilton sensationally announced he’d be swapping from Mercedes to Ferrari.

‘Charles Leclerc can’t afford to let Lewis Hamilton be the main man’

It’s a partnership that intrigues as Leclerc, only – if one can say that – a five-time Grand Prix winner, takes on a seven-time World Champion in Hamilton.

But while the Briton has the stats, Leclerc has a long history with the Scuderia having started out as a Ferrari junior before racing for the Ferrari-powered Sauber team and then Ferrari.

He has long been billed as the future of Ferrari and the Italian stable’s next World title winner. But Hamilton will have something to say about that.

Priestley though has warned the Monegasque driver not to slip into a number two role to his 2025 team-mate.

“Charles Leclerc can’t afford to let Lewis Hamilton come in and be the main man at Ferrari,” the former McLaren mechanic told OLBG. “Leclerc is reasonably experienced now, he has a few years under his belt and is not a rookie.

“If a driver accepts they’re going to be the second driver of the team, you sign your own death warrant and lose performance from that.

“Leclerc needs to come into the team next year, thinking he’ll be better than Hamilton. F1 is a sport in which a huge part is technical with that car, but a huge part is the driver’s confidence in his own ability.

“My experience from driver pairings, particularly new ones, is they will be best of friends in the beginning and have massive respect for each other. But that can all change if Hamilton and Leclerc are competing for a title against each other.

“If the Ferrari becomes the best car, that’s when it becomes very tricky, and I’ve never seen a situation like that where the drivers don’t fall out and cause problems within the team.

“It’s a competitive environment and the holy grail is the championship, so if your competitor is the guy on the other side of your garage with the same overalls, he’s your enemy and not your team-mate.

“Leclerc and Hamilton will both start with massive respect for each other, but it could play out on the race track.”

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Charles Leclerc could become ‘Nico Rosberg 2.0’

And if it does and the respect goes, Leclerc could yet become “Nico Rosberg 2.0” for Hamilton.

Although Hamilton and Rosberg were boyhood friends, as their rivalry played out and they found themselves going wheel-to-wheel for the Drivers’ Championship title, respect turned to feud and friends to enemies.

“Could Charles Leclerc be the next Nico Rosberg when Lewis Hamilton joins Ferrari? You never know,” Priestley said.

“A good example of that was the ‘duel in the desert’ in 2014, they battled and swapped positions multiple times. They got out of their cars and joked about it, high-fived each other and said how great of a race it was. But that didn’t continue for very long because there was a championship at stake, the guy who you’re hugging early in the season becomes your enemy.

“Rosberg and Hamilton had great respect towards each other until they became rivals in a championship, and the same could happen with Leclerc.”

With Ferrari taking steps forward this season, it’s not inconceivable to think they could take on Red Bull for the 2025 World title.

That, should Hamilton win it, would mark the Briton’s record-breaking eighth.

Asked about the possibility of that, Priestley replied: “Lewis Hamilton is still very capable of winning an eighth World Drivers’ Championship. But you need the right car and team around you, he’s joining Ferrari in a time where they’re building towards a title challenge.

“The leadership under Frederic Vasseur has become much more relaxed, and I mean that in the best possible way, it used to be heavily politicised in the past and a stressful organisation. Vasseur has changed that now, and you’re seeing it in their results.

“If Ferrari continues on this trajectory, Lewis could be arriving at just the right time.”

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