Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has recently been linked with a move to Mercedes; 1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill says Red Bull and Mercedes are “probably content” with their current driver line-ups; watch the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend
Charles Leclerc is “rather stuck” at Ferrari because Mercedes and Red Bull are “probably content” with their current driver line-ups, Damon Hill has told the Sky Sports F1 Podcast.
Leclerc fuelled speculation over his future last month when responding to rumours of talks being held between himself and Mercedes by saying that they had not happened “yet”.
The Monegasque insisted that “for now” he is “fully focused” on racing for Ferrari, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff later confirmed that Leclerc is on his “radar.
Speculation linking Leclerc to Mercedes surrounds uncertainty over Lewis Hamilton’s future with the team, given the seven-time world champion has yet to agree an extension to his current deal, which expires at the end of the 2023 season.
However, 1996 world champion Hill expects Hamilton to continue into 2024, and therefore doesn’t see a realistic alternative to Ferrari for Leclerc.
“I think he’s rather stuck at Ferrari for a bit,” Hill said ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“He’s never really been in an extended campaign for the championship. There have been moments that it’s been good and then they’ve faded, and he’s also had these blots on his copybook with qualifying, the banzai lap that goes wrong.
“When you look around at the top teams, who they have in their teams, they’re probably content with what they’ve got at the moment – I’m not sure that there’s anywhere else for him to go.
“Red Bull, I doubt it. Mercedes, I’m sure that Toto will be sticking with Lewis until Lewis decides that he’s not going to race anymore, and I think Charles is the perfect fit for Ferrari.
“So I think he’s there for the long term, until they give him a car that he can go for a championship with.”
Ferrari finished second behind Red Bull in last season’s constructors’ championship, but both the Italian team and Mercedes have been surprisingly outperformed by Aston Martin in the early stages of the new campaign.
Following his arrival at Aston Martin during the off-season, Fernando Alonso has finished third in four of the first five races, and is third in the drivers’ standings behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Given Alonso is the oldest driver on the grid and will be turning 42 in July, Hill didn’t completely rule out the opportunity of Leclerc looking into an Aston Martin move in the future.
“Aston Martin are a coming team,” he added. “Possibly, if it continues to be dire at Ferrari, then maybe he’ll look elsewhere, but I think he’s better off where he is.”
A difficult start to the season, which has included two retirements, has left Leclerc only seventh in the drivers’ standings as Formula 1 returns to Europe for a triple-header of races.
There will be additional focus on the 25-year-old in both Ferrari’s home race in Imola, then at his own home circuit in Monaco the following weekend, particularly after two high-profile crashes last time out in Miami.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Hill give his reflections on driving at Imola, Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur’s “baptism of fire”, and the prospect of Daniel Ricciardo joining AlphaTauri.
Don’t miss an episode of the Sky Sports F1 Podcast. Subscribe now on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Spreaker
Sky Sports F1’s live Emilia Romagna GP schedule
Friday 10 May
8:50am: F3 Practice
10am: F2 Practice
12pm: Emilia Romagna GP Practice One
1:55pm: F3 Qualifying
2:50pm: F2 Qualifying
3:45pm: Emilia Romagna GP Practice Two
5:30pm: The F1 Show
Saturday 20 May
9am: F3 Sprint
11:15am: Emilia Romagna GP Practice Three
1:10pm: F2 Sprint
2:10pm: Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying
4:45pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
Sunday 21 May
8:40am: F3 Feature Race
10:10am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Emilia Romagna GP build-up
2pm: The EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag: Emilia Romagna GP reaction
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
Formula 1 returns to Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix from May 19-21. Watch every session live on Sky Sports F1 including the race from 2pm on Sunday May 21.