Charles Leclerc picked as shock Lewis Hamilton replacement

Charles Leclerc was heavily rumoured to have spoken to Mercedes last season amid tensions at Ferrari.

Ex-Ferrari and Williams team manager Peter Windsor believes Charles Leclerc could possibly move to Mercedes, when Lewis Hamilton eventually retires.

Leclerc has been linked to the Silver Arrows as recently as last year, when it wasn’t certain as to whether Hamilton would accept an extension beyond 2023.

It was rumoured that the Monegasque spoke to team principal Toto Wolff, although both quashed any suggestions that talks were held.

Hamilton, of course, did eventually sign a two-year extension last year prior to the Italian Grand Prix, although Windsor isn’t sure if the 39-year-old will complete the entirety of his contract.

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Windsor ponders whether Hamilton will call it a day on his F1 career if Mercedes are uncompetitive again in the upcoming season, something which is entirely possible.

Mercedes are set to introduce an entirely new concept for the 2024 F1 season after opting to start from scratch using what they’ve learnt from their two recent woeful campaigns.

If the seven-time World Champion did prematurely depart, Windsor can see the Germans going all out for Leclerc.

“I don’t think Lewis [Hamilton] will race too much longer if the Mercedes isn’t a great car this year,” Windsor said on his YouTube channel.

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“So, then you might see [Charles] Leclerc going to Mercedes and if Lewis announces his retirement early enough if he does, I’m not saying he does, but if the car’s not very good, Leclerc might go there.”

Leclerc’s own contract with Ferrari is set to expire at the end of 2024 – as is Carlos Sainz’s – but the general expectation is that he will sign a new deal.

It was even reported towards the end of 2023 that Ferrari’s golden child was offered a staggering five-year extension, taking him to the end of 2029.

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It’s unconfirmed currently whether he has been offered this or not; however, should it be genuine, then this would almost certainly shut the door completely to Mercedes.

The Ferrari driver has previously expressed his love for the Maranello-based side and how much he wants to win their first title since 2008.

Whether winning a title with the Scuderia is possible or not remains to be seen, although it could reach a point where he has to prioritise his personal ambitions over what he wants to achieve for Ferrari.