Could Lewis Hamilton ditch Mercedes in favour of a drive at Ferrari? Speculation has emerged after the Briton was reportedly offered £40 million to join the team.
Italian media has speculated over the potential for Hamilton to join the team amid contract talks with Leclerc, which the Corriere dello Sport believes is putting pressure on the Monegasque on the days leading up to his home race.
"An arm wrestle between Ferrari and Charles Leclerc," the headlines in the Corriere dello Sport read.
"In the week of the Monaco GP, Ferrari seems to be putting pressure on Leclerc. During every war, misinformation sometimes surfaces, which can have consequences. So too during the metaphorical war like the one between Ferrari and Leclerc about extending the contract beyond 2024."
Ferrari President, John Elkann, has reported offered Hamilton a mega deal to join the team according to rumours in the British press. However, the Correire believes Ferrari are unlikely to offer the seven-time World Champion more than what they are paying Leclerc.
"Ferrari says it has 'no comments' on the news and the louder those 'no comments' are, the more positive they tend to be. So either Hamilton to Ferrari is a truth, or someone wants us to believe that.
"We assume the second scenario, probably because the Brit wants to stay with Mercedes for two years and they only offer him a one-year contract. Ferrari doesn't want Hamilton either, because they have two good drivers. The team will not hire a world champion of 39 and will not offer him as much money as Leclerc gets. Besides, Ferrari could use the rumors in Leclerc's contract negotiations."
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Other areas of the Italian media believe that this is a tactic from Ferrari to negotiate better terms with Leclerc, as his contract is set to end in 2024.
"Hamilton in the red?" headlines read in Italy's biggest sports newspaper, the Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Should he come, he would take Sainz's place. Still, a deal seems difficult. Every time Hamilton's contract expires, he seems to be linked to Ferrari. Still, there would be some truth in it, regarding the contact between Hamilton and Elkann, although there is uncertainty about the amount of the offer.
"Why would Ferrari try to bring in Hamilton? In the past, they also brought in champions to divert attention from poor performance. Also, with the offer Ferrari is trying to gain a strategic advantage in negotiations with Leclerc, which are currently at a standstill because the Monegasque is not happy with the performance of the Ferrari car. This way Ferrari can increase the pressure."
Gazzetta believes that even with Hamilton at his best, he would struggle to compete with Red Bull in a Ferrari given how much of an advantage they have at the front of the field.
They have not ruled out Carlos Sainz being replaced, raising the possibility of the Spaniard potentially moving over to Sauber-Audi in the future.
"Ferrari needs to have a super driver in case Leclerc decides not to continue with the team. Then who is better than Hamilton? Should he come in 2024, he will replace Sainz who in turn will go to Mercedes or perhaps Sauber-Audi. Indeed, Leclerc seems to want to respect his contract, which runs through 2024.
"The fact that both Sainz and Leclerc are still under contract through 2024 does complicate the situation with Hamilton. However, Ferrari cannot wait, as Hamilton is already 38 years old. Elkann is showing his hand with this offer and the fact that he tried to bring in Red Bull chief Pierre Wache.
"Red Bull is too strong, however, which means that at the moment even the best version of Hamilton would not be enough for Ferrari to win. After all, miracles do not exist in Formula 1," the Gazzetta concluded.