Last week, Hamilton shocked the Formula One world by announcing that he was leaving Mercedes after 11 years to join Ferrari in 2025.
The seven-time champion has signed a multi-year deal and will partner Leclerc for the foreseeable future, with Carlos Sainz making way.
The news came only a week after Leclerc himself penned a new long term contract, reaffirming his commitment to the Scuderia and seemingly cementing his status as their ‘Golden Boy’ and team leader.
However, the arrival of Hamilton will surely upset the equilibrium, and if Ferrari are able to produce a car worthy of winning the championship, fireworks between their drivers can be expected.
Leclerc is yet to publicly comment on the matter, but initial reports suggested the Monegasque was aware of talks between Ferrari and Hamilton, and is now relishing the chance to test himself against the most successful driver in F1 history.
However, Corriere dello Sport now claim that the opposite is true, and that the 26-year-old and his entourage were blindsided by the move and ‘had no idea what was about to happen’.
Furthermore, it is said that they ‘were shocked and disappointed by Ferrari’s decision’ but will keep quiet on the matter.
Leclerc is determined to become Ferrari’s first champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, hence the new contract, but it was not specified how long the deal is and it is speculated that it could include a break clause that would allow him to leave if his title prospects don’t improve.
Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s former Mercedes teammate, recently admitted his ‘surprise’ at the move and says he is intrigued to see how it plays out.
Speaking at the launch of the Stake F1 team’s 2024 car, the 34-year-old said: ‘I never actually thought that could happen, but I think it’s good for him. I mean, it’s a big opportunity, it’s a big move, and obviously he’s made the decision himself.
‘It’s going to be a different experience for him, but I think with all his experience in Formula One, he’s always been great with dealing with people and getting the most out of a team.
Lewis Hamilton’s replacement at Mercedes odds:
Carlos Sainz – 6/4
Alex Albon – 2/1
Fernando Alonso – 5/1
Daniel Ricciardo – 8/1
Esteban Ocon – 16/1
Andrea Kimi Antonelli – 25/1
Sebastian Vettel – 100/1
Valtteri Bottas – 100/1
Odds courtesy of BonusCodeBets
‘I’m positive he’s going to do a great job there and he shouldn’t have any issues getting used to the car either. I think it’s a great challenge. I’m sure it’s a big motivation for him to bring Ferrari to the top.’
As for who will replace Hamilton at Mercedes, Bottas is considered an outside contender having won 10 races with them from 2017 to 2021, and was even recently pictured at the team’s base in Brackley.
Discussing the chances of him returning to the Silver Arrows, the Finn added: ‘It’s no lie, I was in Brackley the day before actually. Not at the Mercedes factory, but I was there doing some other stuff.
‘No, we haven’t spoken on the phone yet with Toto [Wolff], and if I would go back, well, obviously, my priority and biggest commitment is the Audi project, which is my target, but if that wouldn’t happen, then actually there’s no team that I wouldn’t go to, let’s say, perhaps, but I know my priorities and I’ve got my list.’
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