Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari newcomer Charles Leclerc will “surprise many people” in his first year with the team.
Following a successful year with the Ferrari-affiliated Alfa Romeo Sauber team last season, Leclerc has been promoted to a full-time Ferrari driver in 2019, replacing Kimi Raikkonen.
With Ferrari showing strong pace in the early stages of preseason testing, Hamilton was asked about the threat to their championships and, in particular, how he thinks Leclerc will do at Ferrari.
Whilst he defended Sebastian Vettel’s experience, he said that he believed Leclerc’s mix of talent, youth and energy will mean he will “surprise many people”.
“Time will tell. I think it would be unfair to put that kind of expectation on his shoulders. He’s young, he’s going to make mistakes, but he’s obviously very talented and mostly likely he’s going to surprise many people,” said Hamilton.
“But, you’re talking about a veteran [Vettel], a four-time world champion. There’s no substitute for experience, so it will be interesting to see how those two parallels work together.”
“Sebastian is a multi-world champion and Charles has lots of experience to go through, but the great thing with a youngster is that you’re energised beyond belief, determined and you have more energy than the others do.
He added that he can see similarities in the scenario he faced when he first joined Formula One, when he was paired against world champion Fernando Alonso in his rookie season.
“It will be interesting to watch. I’ve been in that same situation with McLaren. You’ve seen it in one realm, it will be interesting to see it in another.”