Corriere dello Sport this week said incumbent Leclerc is actually upset that Ferrari has chosen to replace Carlos Sainz with the seven time world champion.
Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, however, says Leclerc actually “has no one to fear”.
“He just has to concentrate on his work,” said the Brazilian, who famously paired up with the great Michael Schumacher at the Maranello team.
“Hamilton’s determination and work ethic are an important factor that will influence the atmosphere in the team,” Massa told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But this will also give Charles additional motivation, because beating Lewis while driving exactly the same car is a very interesting challenge.”
Out of Hamilton – who will be 40 when he arrives in red – and 26-year-old Leclerc, it is not clear who will be regarded as Ferrari’s ‘number 1’.
Ralf Schumacher is in no doubt: “Hamilton will try to be number 1. But I think he will have to fight for it because Leclerc has been there for a long time.
“The most important thing will be what the drivers want,” he told Sky Deutschland. “Lewis needs a stable car, while Charles can drive an unstable car. It remains to be seen who will prevail.”
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, whose father Gilles was a famous Ferrari driver, thinks moving alongside Leclerc at the age of 40 is actually a low-risk move for Hamilton.
“It’s at a time in history where the team hasn’t won in a very long time,” he said. “It would have been different, for example, to arrive directly after Schumacher.
“And if he doesn’t win, it’s better not to win with Ferrari than not to win with Mercedes.”
However, the Canadian wonders if Hamilton is ready for the unique pressure of Maranello.
“Ferrari is another world, in which it is not easy to survive,” said Villeneuve. “We will now see how strong he is, including psychologically.
“Ferrari wears out its drivers. Even someone like Alonso burned out. The only one who didn’t was Schumacher.”
On the other hand, German motor racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck thinks Hamilton actually “has a lot to lose”.
“If Leclerc beats Hamilton, it would be a bad end to his (Hamilton’s) career,” he told Eurosport Deutschland.
“I’m curious to see if he can cope with the Ferrari system, where everything works a little differently. He won’t get to be the big personality that you can have in other teams. Hamilton has to submit.
“Ferrari is Italy. The press is completely different – they lust after every little thing, there are no secrets. This will be a completely new experience for Hamilton,” Stuck added.
“He will also have a very strong teammate in Leclerc. He’s been in the Ferrari system for years and knows how things work. We’ve seen this so many times – a driver changes teams, a younger driver comes along and thrashes him.”