Lewis Hamilton warns Ferrari against curbing Charles Leclerc's enthusiasm

Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc

Lewis Hamilton has warned Ferrari that Charles Leclerc could rebel if they continue to sideline him.

Leclerc has been subjected to three team orders in as many races this season, most recently in China when he was ushered aside for Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari hope that favouring Vettel will provide them with their best chance of stopping Hamilton marching to a sixth world crown.

But Hamilton, drawing on his explosive debut season at McLaren in 2007 when Fernando Alonso expected the British star to act as a compliant number two, believes Leclerc's feathers will have been ruffled.

"There are a couple of scenarios in Formula One where multiple world champions demand the number one position, and therefore you become a number two and play a supporting role," said Hamilton, speaking ahead of Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

"It goes against your core values because you are a racing driver at heart.

"That is why I understand how Charles feels because in his heart he believes he is the best, or at least got the potential to be the best.

"It is like having your light dimmed. As a racer, and a fierce competitor, you naturally rebel. They might say to do one thing, but the fight in you wants to push the other way. I have experienced that."

Hamilton, who has never demanded number one status, either at McLaren or now with Mercedes, is already 31 points clear of Vettel.

Leclerc is just one point behind his four-time world champion team-mate.

Asked if Ferrari's policy to back Vettel remains the right one, Hamilton replied: "I don't have to run the team, so it doesn't make any difference to me. I am fighting both of them."

Hamilton's breakthrough season at McLaren ensured he was afforded equal terms with Alonso.

It contributed to Alonso, then the reigning two-time world champion, quitting the British team after just one year.

Bernie Ecclestone, the former Formula One supremo and a close friend of Vettel, recently claimed that the Ferrari driver will consider retiring if he loses his number one status.

Hamilton added: "I wanted to get to Formula One as soon as possible, and when I was there I wanted to win as soon as possible, and beat the champion that I was racing against.

"The situation with Charles is very similar. I see much of myself in him. He is doing a great job with huge expectations on him at a huge team like Ferrari. He is driving so well, so he has to keep doing what he is doing. It will come to him."

George Russell, meanwhile, was pulled from his media commitments here in Baku on Thursday. The British rookie, 21, has been unwell in recent days, but is expected to be in his Williams for tomorrow's practice sessions.

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