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Lewis Hamilton: Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur says signing 'huge opportunity' for team

Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari in 2025 is a "huge opportunity" for the team, boss Frederic Vasseur says.

Hamilton, 39, will partner Charles Leclerc in a move that stunned Formula 1 when it was revealed less than two weeks ago.

Vasseur said it was important to make the announcement early so the team has "no distraction" for the 2024 season.

He added the seven-time world champion's arrival "will be a good challenge for everyone".

The launch of Ferrari's 2024 car on Tuesday was the first time any of the senior figures at the Italian team had discussed Hamilton's shock transfer.

Vasseur, who was Hamilton's team boss when the Briton became champion of the GP2 junior category in 2006 before his graduation to F1, said the move "came naturally".

"We had a good relationship for a bit more than 20 years," the Frenchman said.

"We were always in contact and it came like this, step by step."

Leclerc said Ferrari had informed him of their talks with Hamilton before he committed to a new long-term deal earlier this year.

"These kind of deals are not finalised overnight," added Leclerc.

"It takes time and I was aware of those discussion before signing my deal so it didn't come out as a surprise after signing.

"For the rest I don't want to comment that much, mostly out of respect for Carlos (Sainz, Leclerc's team-mate since 2021).

"We have had great years and we will do everything we can do finish on the most successful note possible.

"Lewis is an incredible driver, the most successful in history, with a lot experience he will bring to the team and to me.

"It was good that the team was transparent (about Hamilton), but it didn't change anything for me."

Leclerc said he and Hamilton, who have had a good relationship for a number of years, "had discussions, especially when everything was announced and official. We texted each other of course".

He added: "He is a great champion. It is always interesting to have a new team-mate as you learn new things and even more so when he is a seven-time world champion."

Sainz puts on a brave face

Carlos Sainz celebrates winning the Singapore Grand Prix in 2023 with Lewis Hamilton on the podium
Carlos Sainz (left, with Lewis Hamilton, on the podium in Singapore) was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a grand prix during the 2023 season

Sainz, who is now looking for a seat for 2025, said the move was "a bit of a surprise", adding: "I got to know the news a bit earlier than anyone else, but it's true then I had some weeks to reflect and some weeks to prepare for the car launch and it gives you a bit of time to digest it and focus on the 2024 season."

But he said the fact he was leaving Ferrari did not change his ambition to be as successful as possible this year.

"The amount of pressure I will put on myself and the team will be exactly the same, the hunger to win races and become champions doesn't change because of what's happening in 2025," Sainz said.

"The fact I am not going to be a Ferrari driver in 2025 doesn't mean we don't want to be champions this year. It means I can focus even more on the present and making sure I have the best car I have."

And he said he would back Leclerc in a title bid if he were asked.

"I've always been a team player," he added. "Every team I have been a great team player, always exemplary in that sense.

"I will definitely help Charles if I have to, the same way I expect Charles to help me if I am in contention for the championship."

What about the Ferrari car?

Ferrari have designed their new car with the aim of making it easier and more predictable to drive so the drivers can more effectively extract its maximum performance.

Leclerc said: "The drivability of the 2023 car was extremely sensitive to wind-direction changes and to outside conditions changing and that made it very difficult to extract the most out of the car.

"There has been a lot of work on that and we have done a significant step forward based on the on the simulator. Based on reality, it is too early to say."

Leclerc added that last season had provided important lessons for Ferrari as they worked hard to overcome the car's deficits.

"If you look at it as a whole, it has been a very good reaction from the team, especially the second part of the season has been very good, the momentum, of the team and the decisions we took in the second half of the season were all very good and brought us closer and closer to Red Bull," he said.

"Our goal is to start on similar basis to next year and then have the same progress and put pressure on Red Bull as soon as possible."

Ferrari won only one race last year, with Sainz in Singapore, as Red Bull won 21 of the 22 grands prix. But Leclerc said their ambitions were set much higher this season.

"Two or three victories is not my target," Leclerc said. "No, it's not enough. I want to win as much as possible.

"We will do the count at the end of the year and after the first race understand how competitive we are."

Chassis technical director Enrico Cardile said the 2024 car was a "completely new platform" and that "every area of the car has been redesigned".

"We worked with very challenging targets in terms of lap time," Cardile said. "We wanted to achieve a certain lap-time improvement to provide our drivers a car nice to drive in every conditions.

"The target was to catch red bull; up. If we have been successful, in a few days we will know."

The team has continued its pursuit of the design direction pioneered by Red Bull after switching to it early last season.

Early pictures released by Ferrari, which are likely to disguise key design areas of the car that the team want to keep under wraps for as long as possible, show redesigned nose and front wing and extensively reshaped bodywork as the team seek to find the consistent, predictable downforce that was often elusive for them last year.

However, the sidepod undercut, one of the crucial defining factors in aerodynamic performance, is notably not as pronounced as on the Red Bull.

Cardile said Ferrari had changed its rear wing philosophy with the aim of increasing its straight-line speed, a major strength of the Red Bull in the past two years.

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