Lewis Hamilton sympathises with Charles Leclerc over Ferrari orders
Hamilton compassionate as he sticks up for Leclerc and backs him for great Ferrari future; Watch Azerbaijan GP on Sky F1 this weekend
By Matt Morlidge in Baku
Last Updated: 26/04/19 11:39am
Lewis Hamilton says he has great sympathy for Charles Leclerc after Ferrari's use of team orders at the start of F1 2019, claiming the controversial strategy is like "having your light dimmed" as a driver.
Ferrari have handed their new signing orders in all three of the campaign's opening races - either telling him to stay behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel, or let him past - and that, coupled with under-par race performances, has been a major early-season talking point as well as a source of frustration for Leclerc.
The Scuderia's struggles have helped Mercedes and Hamilton build an impressive advantage in the title race heading into this weekend's Azerbaijan GP, but the world champion was compassionate as he stuck up for Leclerc and insisted the Monegasque still has a great future.
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"There are a couple of scenarios where we've had multiple world champions who have number one position, and therefore you become a number two and a supporting role," Hamilton told reporters, referring to Leclerc and four-time world champion Vettel.
"Whilst it's a privileged position to be in, it goes against your core value, because you're a racing driver at heart. That's why 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."
Hamilton sees himself in Leclerc
Hamilton compared Leclerc's situation to his rookie Formula 1 season in at McLaren, when he was matched up against a multi world champion in Fernando Alonso.
"He's a little bit younger than I was, just a year or so, but when you're young I remember wanting to get to Formula 1 as soon as possible and, when I got there, I wanted to win as soon as possible and beat the champion that I was racing against," said Hamilton.
"So it's very, very similar. I see much of myself in Charles and he's doing a great job already so far. With really high expectations at a huge team like Ferrari, he's driving so well. He just has to keep doing what he's doing, it will come to him."
But asked if Ferrari were making the right call by giving Vettel preferential treatment at the start of the season, Hamilton rebuked: "It's not my decision to make.
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"I don't know how to run a team, I don't know how to make these decisions, so it doesn't make a difference to me.
"I'm fighting against both of them."
Hamilton also urged Leclerc, who has ignored certain team instructions in Bahrain and China, to continue to stand strong, adding: "As a racer and as a fierce competitor you kind of rebel.
"They say to do one thing but the fight in you wants you to push the other way.
"I've experienced that, and 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 then the next race I won my first grand prix.
"For me it justified the rebellious side that I had and from then on it fight like I had more of a chance to show my ability each weekend."
Leclerc: Hopefully it will change soon
Leclerc has been mature and assured ever since starting his F1 career last season, but his radio messages in China as he battled against Ferrari's wishes to let Vettel ahead showed rare heated passion and anger.
"It's frustrating while you are in the car when you are told to let past another driver," the 21-year-old said in Baku. "It is frustrating for anyone who has been driving a car and given this instruction."
But he added: "On the other hand, I understand them in a way - Seb is now in his fifth year in the team, has won four world championships while I am only in my second season in Formula 1.
"I have got a lot of things to prove and now it's up to me to do the best job possible in the team to prove to them what I'm capable of. I just need to continue doing what I'm doing, trying to improve myself and hopefully it will change soon."
Leclerc explained that "in some situations" he will accept team orders, and confirmed that he has been seeking explanations from new Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.
"I asked him and the answer is still the same, he is taking the decision on the pit wall," he said. "They have a lot more data on the pit wall than I do in the car. We will see in the future."
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