Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has stated he's a 'Ferrari fan' and has given his backing for Charles Leclerc to beat Max Verstappen to the Formula One title – though he isn't ruling his team out of the running.
The seven-time world champion has been unable to compete in 2022 following the latest round of regulation changes, with Mercedes vastly out performed by the title-chasing pair of Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes did show signs of improvement at Barcelona following the introduction of new upgrades but pace problems emerged in Monaco, leaving the eight-time consecutive Constructor's Champions unlikely to be able to propel themselves back into the title picture.
With one-quarter of the season down, Hamilton isn't ruling his team out of the running just yet – although he's admitted that if he was a fan in the stands, he'd be backing Leclerc and Ferrari to emerge triumphant in the hunt for both titles.
“So you take it for granted that we at Mercedes are done for? Don't underestimate us. Ferrari are stronger in qualifying and Red Bull in the race," he told Italian publication Corriere Della Sera.
“But it changes with every race, and Ferrari has shown that they know how to create a great car. And then Charles is very strong. Anyway, I would add one thing: if I could sit down with the fans over there, I would support Charles. I'm a Ferrari fan.”
Verstappen headed into the Monaco weekend with a narrow six-point lead over Leclerc in the Driver's Championship following three consecutive victories in Imola, Miami and Barcelona – and the defending champion boasts an incredible record of winning every race he has finished this season.
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Leclerc looked set for a comfortable win in Barcelona last weekend following an early spin from Verstappen and, at one stage, had a 30-second lead but his race came to a premature end with a power unit failure that led to an early retirement.
In his absence, Red Bull picked up their second one-two finish in three races to also take the lead in the Constructor's Championship from Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz coming fourth in his home Grand Prix.
Leclerc will be hoping for better fortunes in Monaco, where he's racing around the streets where he grew up, but will have bad memories of 2021 where he held pole position but failed to make the race start.
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