Ferrari explain ‘huge opportunity’ with Lewis Hamilton, Leclerc spills on text message after F1 team move

Charles Leclerc has revealed he texted Lewis Hamilton as news of his shock move to Ferrari broke, with the Italian F1 giant welcoming the move as a “huge opportunity”.

Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of this season after signing a deal with Ferrari from 2025, where he will replace Carlos Sainz and join Leclerc in a blockbuster driver pairing.

Speaking at Ferrari’s season launch overnight, Leclerc and Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur said they were committed to finishing the Leclerc-Sainz era on a high before bringing Hamilton into the fold next year.

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Leclerc, 26, said he was initially surprised by the news of Hamilton’s recruitment but is excited for the chance to share the same garage with a seven-time world champion.

“Obviously, these kinds of deals are not finalised overnight so, of course, it takes time,” Leclerc said.

“I was aware of those discussions before signing my deal so it didn’t come out as a surprise after signing.

“Then, for the rest, I don’t want to comment on it that much – mostly out of respect for Carlos.

“We’ve had great years together and we have one more year together to do and we will do absolutely everything to finish on the highest note possible.

“Obviously, Lewis is an incredible driver, the most successful in history, and with a lot of experience as well which he will bring to the team and obviously myself, which is a good thing.

“But, with Carlos, it has been great and we’ve got one more year together to try and do the best job possible.”

Leclerc said he shared messages with Hamilton when the bombshell team switch was announced after being in the works for some time.

“Yes, we’ve had discussions with Lewis – especially when everything was announced and official,” he said.

“We texted each other, of course – as I said, Lewis is a great champion with a lot of experience and so much success.

“So it is always interesting to have a new teammate as you learn different ways of working or driving. And even more so when my new teammate is a seven-time world champion.”

“It hasn’t changed anything in my discussions because, again, I focus on myself and what’s good for me.

“So there was no change of any requirements whatsoever. For me, that wasn’t part of my discussions, but I think it was good that the team was transparent anyway just for me not to learn it after that but it didn’t change anything for me.”

Vasseur said the phone call to inform Sainz he was being dropped for Hamilton was one of the toughest of his career.

“As you can imagine, it was not the easiest call of my life,” Ferrari’s team principal said.

“I’m fully convinced that (Sainz) is a very professional driver, that he understands that we have a long season in front of us, that it’s a huge opportunity.

“And I think it’s also a dream to be in this situation, to have the team behind him. I mean, we had a long discussion that as you can imagine, I will be fully supporting with Carlos.

“He is fully committed and we know that we have to do the job together. We are together, we are professional.”

Vasseur said having Hamilton drive for Ferrari was simply too good an opportunity to pass up.

“You know that we have a good relationship for now a bit more than 20 years,” Vasseur said of his relationship with Hamilton.

“We were always in contact to speak about different things and I think it came naturally. I don’t know what was this easy for what was not, but it came like this, step by step.”

Ferrari’s value increased by nearly $6 billion in the days following Hamilton’s deal being announced and he could take the company’s market value beyond USD$100 billion.

Ferrari finished third in the constructors’ standings in 2023, just three points behind Mercedes. Sainz, the only non Red Bull driver to win race, was seventh in the drivers’ championship and Leclerc finished six points ahead in fifth.

Asked if the move was unfair on Sainz, Vasseur said: “I don’t know if it’s is the right word because I think for the team, the opportunity of Lewis is something that you have to consider in any case.

“He is the biggest promise of the field, he is the guy with the biggest experience and it’s a huge opportunity for us. It has nothing to do with Carlos.

“Carlos did a great job last year, I’m sure that he will do a great job next year, that he’s very professional.

“We have a very good personal relationship, but it’s like it is and we have to be focused on the future.”

The 2024 F1 season begins at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday March 2.

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