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Charles Leclerc would welcome Lewis Hamilton as team-mate

Ferrari bound? Lewis Hamilton sprays the champagne after winning his 11th race of the year yesterday

CHARLES LECLERC has revealed he would welcome Lewis Hamilton to join him at Ferrari.

The six-times world champion’s next move was the subject of intense speculation at the final round of the campaign in Abu Dhabi after Ferrari admitted for the first time that they want to sign the Englishman.

Hamilton, whose £40million-a-season Mercedes contract expires at the end of next year, did little to play down Ferrari’s flirtatious advances by refusing to rule out a move to the famous Italian team.

Leclerc, 22, enjoyed a strong first season with Ferrari, scoring more points, more wins and more pole positions than his team-mate, the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

And if Ferrari continue their pursuit of Hamilton, 35 next month, it will surely be as a direct replacement for the German, rather than Leclerc who is viewed as the team’s man for the future.

‘Of course I would welcome Lewis,’ said Leclerc, who finished third at Sunday’s season-concluding race in the desert. ‘We are in Formula One and we want to fight against the best.

Beat the best: Charles Leclerc

‘I have had a big opportunity to have had Seb next to me, who is a four-time world champion, and I have learnt a lot from him so you can always learn from these types of champions.’

Hamilton will have time to ponder what could be the last contract of his Formula One career over the winter break with Toto Wolff revealing Mercedes’ attempts to convince him to stay will not begin until the end of January.

Wolff’s own future will be a factor in Hamilton’s decision-making process with the Mercedes team principal, who has overseen five of Hamilton’s six world championships, courted by owners’ Liberty Media to run the sport.

‘There are so many factors one needs to consider in your career,’ said Wolff, 47. ‘What makes you happy and what gets you out of bed on the difficult days.

‘For me, still after eight years, this job is what gives me that strength, and at the moment I cannot imagine a better place.

‘At the moment there is such a strong bond within the team. It is a good place to work and I take great contentment from the relationships within the team.

‘That has been a strong part of our success and I am looking forward to 2020 to try and be the best us; to come up with the best engine, the best chassis and have the drivers in the right space and contribute to Formula One’s overall success.’