Massa: I wouldn’t replace Vettel with Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa

Ferrari would be making a mistake in partnering Lewis Hamilton with incumbent Charles Leclerc, says former Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa.

One of the main subplots of the 2020 silly season, much has been made of Sebastian Vettel’s contract with the Scuderia being up at the end of the year, and who could replace him should Mattia Binotto and co. decide to move on.

A hot rumour at the end of last season, Hamilton had been spotted having talks with Ferrari Chairman John Elkann in the paddock, and while that speculation has cooled somewhat, his contract situation with Mercedes for 2021 and beyond remains unresolved.

In any case Massa, who raced for the Scuderia from 2006-2013, believes that even if Hamilton is available, the best option would be to keep the current pairing intact.

“If I were in the place of Binotto I would not change, there is a great balance in the current pairing between the talent of Charles Leclerc and the four titles won by Sebastian Vettel,” he told Il Corriere dello Sport.

Enduring a rocky first season as teammates in 2019, Vettel and Leclerc’s relationship still managed not to completely disintegrate under the stresses of competing for a championship, while team principal Binotto seemed content they were entering the now-postponed 2020 season on the same page.

In Massa’s opinion, bringing in a fresh face could only make the balance worse, although he concedes there is one feasible replacement.

“If I had to change, I’d take [Daniel] Ricciardo, he’s very strong and it’s always interesting to see how he runs,” he said. “[Lewis] Hamilton would be a mistake in my opinion, he could mentally destroy Leclerc and slow his growth.”

Already committed to Leclerc through 2024, there is no doubting Ferrari sees the Monegasque as a cornerstone for the future. And yet while Hamilton is known to have butted-heads with several teammates over the years, it is not unheard of for the Scuderia to simply chase after the biggest-name on the F1 grid. Right now that is unquestionably Hamilton, and in the event he can’t come to terms with the Silver Arrows, he would likely be keen on a move to Maranello.