Jacques Villeneuve suspects Lewis Hamilton motive behind Charles Leclerc’s new deal

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton with Charles Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc will become team-mates in 2025.

1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Ferrari played it smart by giving Charles Leclerc a new contract – to “keep him quiet” as the shock signing of Lewis Hamilton followed.

It has been a hectic off-season at Maranello when it comes to driver contract business, Ferrari announcing that Leclerc had signed fresh terms, with focus then turning to team-mate Carlos Sainz who also had a deal expiring at the end of 2024.

Very few though expected the solution on Sainz which came to pass, with Ferrari instead managing to complete a swoop for seven-time World Champion Hamilton, luring him away from Mercedes to partner Leclerc from F1 2025.

Ferrari ‘kept Charles Leclerc quiet’ on Lewis Hamilton with new deal

Leclerc’s new contract, which reportedly includes a substantial pay rise and team leader status within the Ferrari squad looking to end their extended title drought, will commit him to Ferrari beyond Hamilton’s arrival, with the dynamic between these drivers set to generate great intrigue.

In Leclerc, Ferrari has a driver who is one of their own, the star Ferrari Driver Academy graduate and the poster boy for their pursuit of a first title since 2008, but Hamilton will bring with him his star power as the most successful F1 driver of all time, and the desire for further title glory.

Villeneuve does not believe Leclerc has any cause for frustration with Hamilton’s arrival though, while praising Ferrari for how they handled their business, ensuring Leclerc was happy with the terms he wanted first before the Hamilton bombshell came to be.

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Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport whether Leclerc has something to be angry about regarding Hamilton joining Ferrari, Villeneuve replied: “He [Hamilton] comes the most successful ever, why should he be? And before getting him, they gave him a very long contract to keep him quiet. A good move, now even clearer.”

Having not tasted victory since 2021, influenced by Mercedes’ struggles in F1’s ground-effect era, Villeneuve hopes to see the “formidable” Hamilton return in Ferrari red, which would set up a tantalising intra-team battle with Leclerc.

Put to him that a fantastic duel is brewing at Ferrari, Villeneuve replied: “Exactly, between the man who has won seven World Championships and the driver who everyone treats as a champion even though he hasn’t yet managed to prove it.

“Two parties will be created at Maranello, as has already happened. But it will also be fun. If we rediscover the Lewis of the great days it will be formidable, also because he has nothing to lose. And finishing in style with Ferrari is the best thing in the world.”

For Mercedes meanwhile, the search is on to find a new team-mate for George Russell from 2025.

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