Lewis Hamilton says Charles Leclerc is feeling the urge to “rebel” at Ferrari in the same way he did during his first season at McLaren.ordered Leclerc to play a supporting role to his team mate in all three races so far this year. Hamilton said he could see parallels between the situation and his rookie campaign alongside Fernando Alonso in 2007.
“I think he’s a little bit younger than I was or just a year or so,” said Hamilton when asked about the similarities between his debut season and Leclerc’s partnership with Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari this year.
“When you’re young, particularly, I remember wanting to get to Formula 1 as soon as possible. And then when I got there I wanted to win as soon as possible and I wanted to beat the champion that I was racing against so it was very similar. I see much of myself in Charles.”
Leclerc was told to wait two laps behind Vettel in Bahrain, but overtook his team mate less than a lap later. Although Leclerc obeyed an instruction to let Vettel pass him in China, today he said he will only obey further such orders “in some situations”. Hamilton said he understands Leclerc’s reluctance to support Vettel.
“The difficult thing is, my philosophy as a racing driver has always been I always want equal opportunity with whoever it is that I’m racing so I can truly show my ability,” he said. “I got to Formula 1 and how these teams are often set up when you have… there are a couple of scenarios where you have multiple world champions who demand a number one position and therefore you become a number two in a supporting role. And whilst it’s a privileged position to be in, it goes against your core values because you’re a racing driver at heart.
“So that’s what I’m saying, I understand how Charles feels. Because in his heart he believes he’s the best, or got the potential to be the best, and it’s almost like having your light dimmed. So as a racer and as a fierce competitor you naturally kind of rebel. They say to do one thing but thew fight in you wants to push the other way.”
In the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix Hamilton followed Alonso home but he complained afterwards he was being treated like a “number two” driver. At the time, teams were allowed to refuel their cars during races and drivers qualified with their race fuel loads in the car. Hamilton carried an extra five laps’ worth of fuel in qualifying, which he felt prevented him challenging Alonso for victory.
The situation changed at the following race in Canada, he explained. “Luckily for me my team at the time gave us equal fuel loads – because back then it wasn’t equal fuel loads in qualifying – and in the next race they did and I won, first grand prix [victory]. So for me it justified the rebellious side that I had and from then on it just felt like I had more of a real chance to show my ability each weekend.”
Leclerc was on course to win in Bahrain after passing Vettel, until he was struck by a power unit problem, which handed victory to Hamilton. “He’s doing a great job already so far,” said the Mercedes driver.
“[There’s] really high expectations at a huge team like Ferrari, but he’s driving so well. He just have to keep doing what he’s doing. It’ll come to him.”
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