Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Maranello might overshadow Ferrari’s favored star. Andrew Frankel suggests, however, that the British driver’s presence could propel Charles Leclerc to new peaks of performance.
Seeking opinions on whether Lewis Hamilton’s decision to join Ferrari in 2025 is wise, you won’t have to look far. Indeed, even if you’re not interested, escaping such discussions might prove challenging. The history of multiple world champions joining Ferrari and securing additional titles is mixed at best.
While Michael Schumacher eventually found success, it wasn’t until after a four-year drought, a luxury of time Hamilton doesn’t possess. Juan Manuel Fangio’s success in 1956 came with the assistance of Peter Collins sacrificing his title chances.
Conversely, for Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso, the move didn’t yield the desired results.
But what does this mean for the other side of Ferrari’s garage? The conversation has largely ignored what Charles Leclerc, who has yet to win a championship, should anticipate with the arrival of Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time world champion.
It’s a discussion that deserves attention. The first issue at hand is whether Leclerc had any say in the matter, which seems unlikely, but even if he did, would choosing to compete alongside the most statistically successful driver in the world, known for outperforming teammates in 14 out of 17 seasons, including against world champions, be a wise decision?
It’s clear that Charles Leclerc is fast, arguably among the fastest, yet speed alone doesn’t secure a world championship.
The key to Hamilton’s unmatched achievements lies not just in his speed for a single lap but in maintaining that pace across every lap and every weekend throughout the entire season.
In comparison, Leclerc has shown moments of mental fragility and inconsistency. Overcoming the elite in the sport demands more than just occasional brilliance.
Now in his sixth year with Ferrari, the team continues to make errors and miss opportunities, despite occasionally having the fastest car on the circuit. Charles Leclerc must accept part of the responsibility for this.
The most successful drivers, like Schumacher and Hamilton, elevate their teams, creating units so skilled and reliable that they can clinch victories even without the fastest vehicle. It appears, then, that Leclerc stands to lose more than he gains by welcoming Lewis Hamilton as a teammate.
However, I hold a contrary view. I believe that whatever impact Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari may have on his own championship prospects, it significantly boosts those of Charles Leclerc.
Age plays a significant role in Formula 1, and it’s a factor that cannot be overlooked.
Although the sport has become more accommodating for older drivers, historical records show that only two drivers have ever clinched championships at an age older than what Lewis Hamilton will be by the end of his inaugural season with Ferrari, with the most recent victory occurring 67 years ago.
Hamilton will be entering his 40s as he takes the wheel for Ferrari, while Charles Leclerc will be at the age of 27.
Even if Hamilton hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, it’s hard to imagine he could become any quicker, especially when Leclerc is approaching the peak years of his career.
Looking at their records in relation to their teammates, Leclerc has only been outscored once in his six seasons, showcasing a record of success almost parallel to that of Hamilton’s.
All of this discussion hasn’t yet touched on the most critical element: the unique nature of Ferrari. Ferrari isn’t just any company; it operates by its own set of rules.
Even when I’m given a Ferrari to test drive, I’m required to sign a document acknowledging the unparalleled experience of driving a Ferrari before I can even get behind the wheel. In the context of racing, competing in a Ferrari isn’t the same as racing for other teams like Red Bull or Mercedes.
With Ferrari, the brand always comes first, and whether Lewis Hamilton will adapt well to this culture or find it challenging, as some have, is yet to be determined.
The era of Michael Schumacher, when he joined forces with Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, and Jean Todt, stands out as a time when the team’s dynamics were notably different, marking the most triumphant phase in Ferrari’s Formula 1 history.
Another point, seemingly minor but possibly impactful, is the language barrier. As far as I know, Lewis Hamilton does not speak Italian, whereas Charles Leclerc is not only fluent but was also born just ten miles from the Italian border.
Unless Hamilton plans to immerse himself in intensive language learning, he will join a team where his teammate can understand every word spoken, whether it’s in official meetings or casual conversations in the pit garage.
Looking ahead, Charles is likely to learn more from Lewis about the intricacies of racing beyond just setting fast lap times than Hamilton will from Leclerc.
Despite being a fierce competitor, Lewis will have to use all his resources to keep up with Charles, but the more I consider it, the clearer it becomes that Leclerc stands to benefit more from having Hamilton as a teammate than the other way around.