Ferrari's 'love' for Leclerc has hurt Vettel and would 'bury' Hamilton

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Ferrari falling in love with Charles Leclerc has hurt Sebastian Vettel and would "bury" Lewis Hamilton, Bernie Ecclestone claims.

The Monegasque made a big impact at the Scuderia in his first season as a race driver there last year, with his two wins and seven poles not telling the full picture.

Even so, his performances were more than enough to see him gradually achieve equal status with Vettel, who was given 'priority' at the start of 2019.

And as that happened, Ecclestone believes it may have resulted in the poor form the four-time world champion showed. 

“Has he gone off a little bit, and if so why? Probably the way he’s sort of been dealt within the team," the former F1 boss told Autocar.

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“He was sort of number one in the team, all of a sudden the kid from nowhere that nobody’s heard of comes along and performs, and everyone fell in love with him at Ferrari.

“So I think it probably felt a little bit… I mean I’m very close with him and we don’t talk about things like that, but I think behind things, he would never say it but perhaps he feels a little bit that he’d been put on the back burner a little bit.”

The rise of Leclerc is one reason Vettel's future is uncertain with Ferrari after this season, and Hamilton was a name initially linked to his seat, though that speculation has since eased.

Even so, if the six-time world champion did go to the Italian team, Ecclestone thinks the Briton would face the exact same problem. 

“He’s used to being more or less in a lot of ways in charge [at Mercedes], and I think if he went to Ferrari, if their number two, what they consider semi number one, continues to perform he wouldn’t survive there.

“Because if they fell in love with Leclerc, that’s what will happen and they’d bury him [Hamilton].”

Ecclestone though has been previously sceptical of the 22-year-old's potential and has named Hamilton and Verstappen as the top two stars on the grid.

But he notes, the support they receive from their current team is important also.

“All these guys are as good as the support they get," he said. "Lewis has got maximum support. There’s not one thing missing from what he’s got behind him.”