Charles Leclerc leaves the door ajar to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

Charles Leclerc has left the door ajar to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

Hamilton’s future in Formula 1 remains in the spotlight with no apparent developments on the extension of his contract expiring at the end of the year.

Both Hamilton, 38, and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff say a deal will be reached, but a report in Italy this week said it was an open secret that Ferrari’s Leclerc was already in dialogue with the Silver Arrows about a future move.

Carlos Sainz (left) and Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton (right) – talking to Carlos Sainz – is out of contract at the end of the year (Sergei Grits/AP)

Leclerc’s bid to win his first world championship this year was derailed by two mechanical retirements in the first three rounds.

And although the Monegasque, who is under contract to Ferrari until the end of next year, insisted ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix that he had not spoken to Wolff about a move to the Silver Arrows, he admitted that could change. in the future.

“No, there have been no conversations,” said Leclerc, 25, before adding: “Not yet, not for the moment.

“For now, I’m completely focused on the project I’m in today, which is Ferrari. We’ll see for the future, but I’m fully confident in the Ferrari project.

“It has always been my dream to be in this team and my main priority is to win a world championship here, so (moving to Mercedes) is not on my mind.”

Asked if he had spoken directly to Wolff, Leclerc replied: “No. Zero. Really null. Everyone smile because you don’t believe me, but I promise.

Hamilton finished second from bottom in Australia, but is already 31 points behind Max Verstappen.

In Baku he was asked whether speculation about Leclerc’s future had had an impact on his own.

“No, not really,” said the seven-time world champion. “Maybe some of the drivers have relationships with different bosses.

“I like where I am. I love my team. I’m grateful for the journey we’ve been on and what we’re working on moving forward, so it doesn’t have any impact, no.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen leads the world championship (Darko Bandic/AP)

The season reignites on the streets of Baku after an enforced break after the round in China was canceled from the calendar.

The F1 bosses have introduced a change to the format here, with the introduction of two qualifying sessions – one to decide the order for Sunday’s Grand Prix and the other to determine the starting grid for Saturday’s sprint race. the first of six sprint events this season.

Qualifying for Sunday’s main event takes place here on Friday evening.

World champion Verstappen recently said he could leave F1 if sport bosses go ahead with plans to extend the number of sprint races.

“One thing you ask yourself is whether it’s worth it,” Verstappen said on Thursday.

“I like racing. I like to win. I know that with the salary and everything else, you make a good life. But is it really a good life? I feel like if at some point it’s getting too much then it’s time for a change.

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