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Lewis Hamilton will meet his ‘biggest challenge’ in Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, David Coulthard warns, as he insists the Brit’s new team-mate is ‘brilliantly fast’ and a ‘champion in the making’

Outperforming Charles Leclerc will be Lewis Hamilton’s toughest challenge at Ferrari, Formula One legend David Coulthard has warned.

Mercedes driver Hamilton stunned the sport earlier this month by agreeing a bombshell £40million move to Ferrari from 2025, calling an end to his 13-year stay with the Silver Arrows.

Despite once claiming he would see out his career at Mercedes and even remain a brand ambassador there for the rest of his life, Hamilton made use of an exit clause on the second year of his new two-year deal to join the sport’s most famous team on a multi-year contract.

Carlos Sainz confirmed he will make way for Hamilton at the end of next season, with Leclerc set to partner the seven-time world champion at the Scuderia.

Coulthard believes Leclerc will represent the Brit’s ‘biggest challenge’ when he arrives at the Ferrari paddock, as he backs the 26-year-old driver to become a future world champion.

Charles Leclerc will be Lewis Hamilton’s biggest challenge at Ferrari, David Coulthard believes

Hamilton shocked the sport with a bombshell £40m move from Mercedes to Ferrari from 2025

Hamilton shocked the sport with a bombshell £40m move from Mercedes to Ferrari from 2025

Admitting his shock at Hamilton’s switch, he told Planet F1: ‘I just never imagined he would effectively – even on good terms – break that winning relationship that’s been going since he was 12 years old with Mercedes.

‘But that said, I think it’s very exciting for Formula 1. It will give a huge impetus to Ferrari when it comes to bringing [in] engineers and people really understand that they’re getting an unbelievable driver.

‘I have to say, I think he will find one of his biggest challenges in Charles Leclerc.

‘Charles is a young, brilliantly fast race driver. Yes, he doesn’t have the World Championships and experience of Lewis, but I think he’s a Champion in waiting, so that may well be where Lewis faces his greatest challenge.

‘I think Charles is one of the quickest single-lap drivers out there.’

Hamilton has been uncharacteristically out of the championship picture for the last two seasons, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dominating the Formula One circuit.

Hamilton has been in the shadow of Red Bull's three-time championship winner Max Verstappen (left) over the last few seasons but hopes to return to the top of F1 at the Scuderia

Hamilton has been in the shadow of Red Bull’s three-time championship winner Max Verstappen (left) over the last few seasons but hopes to return to the top of F1 at the Scuderia

Coulthard insists Leclerc is a future world champion and described him as 'brilliantly fast'

Coulthard insists Leclerc is a future world champion and described him as ‘brilliantly fast’

The Dutchman claimed his third consecutive world title in October, establishing himself as one of the greats in the sport’s history.

Although Hamilton will be eager to topple Red Bull’s dominance at Mercedes, Martin Brundle agreed that team-mate Leclerc could end up the 39-year-old veteran’s greatest rival in terms of pace.

He told Sky Sports: ‘Leclerc I think is potentially, on an outright qualifying lap, the fastest driver out there at the moment, even including Max Verstappen.

‘He’s blindingly fast, tends to run into a few things he didn’t ought to from time to time and fly off the road, Charles, because he just drives so near the limit.’

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