Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has said that he knows what Charles Leclerc is going through after the Ferrari driver threw away a shot at victory at the French Grand Prix last weekend.
Leclerc spun out of the lead of the race, handing victory to title rival Max Verstappen, who extended his lead over Leclerc to 63 points in the championship standings.
The pressure is now on Leclerc, who also made a mistake in Imola that cost him seven points, to close the gap to Verstappen in the remaining 10 races.
This year’s Ferrari is the first since 2018 with the potential to seriously challenge for the title, and Hamilton said he has sympathy for the pressure Leclerc and his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz are carrying into each race weekend.
“It’s been great to see the pace of the Ferrari this year,” Hamilton said. “I’m gutted for Charles, who’s being doing a great job, as has Carlos.
“It’s not easy though, having that pace and that performance and maintaining it. It’s a tough job and I feel for the whole team because I know what that can feel like.
“But they’re a great team, and they’ll continue to keep their heads down.”
In Leclerc’s absence, Hamilton secured second place for Mercedes in France but said his team, which has fallen down the order since a regulation change over the winter, is not yet in a position to challenge for victories. However, he is confident changes can be made for 2023 that will offer a big step forward.
“I know exactly what I want in the car for next year,” he said. “Things that fundamentally can’t change [this year], because it’s too big to change here with a cost cap this year.
“So I’m able to — ahead of time — say these are the things I want in the next year’s car. So those things I think are being taken into account and whilst we continue to try and dial this car in, of course bit by bit, as we go into these next weeks, the next couple of months, the full focus will probably be into next year’s car.”