It was widely believed that Leclerc might be tempted by a move to the Silver Arrows in the future, particularly if Hamilton were to leave.
There was a lot of chatter in the Baku paddock last week after reports surfaced that Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was considering a switch to Mercedes. However, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff insisted that his team was committed to keeping seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton on board. It was widely believed that Leclerc might be tempted by a move to the Silver Arrows in the future, particularly if Hamilton were to leave or retire when his contract expires at the end of the year. Leclerc finished third in Azerbaijan, earning his first podium finish of the 2023 season.
“I think he’s 100% committed and loyal to Ferrari and it’s his contract and in the same way we are 100% committed to putting pen to paper with Lewis,” Toto Wolff, Mercedes team principal, said of the rumours. “I think he’s 100% committed and loyal to Ferrari and it’s his contract and in the same way we are 100% committed to putting pen to paper with Lewis.
“You want that headline. harles is a super guy, and for the long-term future someone you need to always have on your radar and that’s clear. But not for the short- or the medium-term,” he added. Wolff said the team was still working to provide their star driver with a championship-winning car in order to keep him at the team past this season. Hamilton, who had his first winless season in F1 last year, has a best finish of P2 in 2023 (Australia).
“I think he feels very much that he’s strong and we feel the same, that we are not going to race for a drivers’ championship this year,” Hamilton said. “That is what it looks like at the moment, and we just need to give him a car that can do that and hopefully we can get our package to a winning package this season and have something that can bring him his eighth title, and no doubt he is motivated to achieve this. That’s something he wants to do, that’s his ability, we have a great relationship personally, and with the team he’s been a strong pillar over the last 10 years, so we are in a really good place.”
Sergio Perez doubled up in Baku by winning the drama-filled Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to strengthen his championship bid. Early on, Verstappen and Perez passed pole-sitter Leclerc and continued to exchange fastest lap times at the front of the field. The race’s turning point came when a Safety Car was deployed on either side of the Red Bull drivers’ pit stops. Verstappen made his pit stop under yellow flags that were raised when Nyck de Vries stopped on the track, and Perez followed suit under a Safety Car, clearing his teammate and returning to the action in the lead.
Verstappen dropped to third, forcing him to pass Leclerc once more. While that was merely a formality when the race restarted, he was unable to overtake Perez in the final stretch and was forced to settle for second place. The two-time champion’s 2023 podium streak came to an end as Leclerc held off Fernando Alonso’s late charge to take third. However, fourth place still represented another significant point total for the Aston Martin driver.