BAKU,. Lewis Hamilton sympathised with Charles Leclerc today and said he saw a lot of himself, and his own early frustrations, in the young Monegasque’s dislike of taking team orders at Ferrari.
The five-time world champion recalled his own debut season in 2007, when he partnered two-time champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren. Like Leclerc, he wanted to win from the outset.
“For sure, I think he’s a bit younger than I was by a year or two, but absolutely I can see it.
“I remember wanting to get to F1 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’s very, very similar. I see much of myself in Charles. He’s doing a great job so far with really high expectations at a huge team like Ferrari, but he’s driving so well. So, he just has to keep doing what he’s doing… It will come to him.”
Hamilton went on to explain how he felt about demanding equality of competition and equipment.
“My philosophy as a racing driver has always been that I want equal opportunity with whoever I’m racing, so I can truly show my ability,” he said.
“I got to Formula One and… you have a couple of scenarios, where you’ve had multiple world champions, who demand number one positions and therefore you become a number two and (take) a supporting role…
“While that’s a privileged position to be in it goes against your core values, because you’re a racing driver at heart.
“That’s why I can understand how Charles feels. Because in his heart he believes he’s the best or has the potential to be the best… it’s almost like having your light dimmed.
“So as a competitor, you naturally kind of rebel. They say do one thing, but the fighter in you wants to go the other way.”
Ferrari have issued team orders in all of the three season-opening Grands Prix, twice giving an advantage to team-mate and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton, however, declined to be drawn on saying if Ferrari were making the right decisions.
“That’s not my call,” he said.
“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.”
He added that it was thanks to the rebel in him and McLaren’s insistence on treating their drivers equally that he took his chance and won his first Grand Prix.
“For me, that justified the rebellious side that I had and from then on it felt like I had more of a chance to show my ability each weekend.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s Azerbaijan race, Hamilton said he was finding Mercedes’ 2019 car more difficult than its title winning predecessor.
“So far, the car’s a little bit harder to work with this year — definitely not easier,” he said.
“It’s a combination of things. Every year you’ve got tyre issues, which seem a little bit more complex than last year.” — AFP