Five-time Formula 1 Champion Lewis Hamilton will face an improved Sebastian Vettel next season and could even have to contend with Max Verstappen as he bids for a third successive Formula 1 championship.
BBC F1 pundit Jolyon Palmer thinks Ferrari’s signing of Charles Leclerc will elevate Vettel’s drive and believes Verstappen could also enter the fray.
“Potentially the most significant threat to Hamilton comes from the old enemy,” Palmer wrote.
“Charles Leclerc joins Ferrari, replacing [Kimi] Raikkonen, and he possesses huge talent.
“His signing should force Vettel to find another gear for next year. Leclerc will be hungry for success and nipping at the heels of the established drivers immediately, as he seeks to make his mark.
“For Ferrari, it's exactly what they need if they are to topple Hamilton next year. A new, exciting driver to get in amongst the action.
“Leclerc's rookie season has been super impressive, including his drive to seventh on Sunday.
“If Leclerc can continue in that form then he can pressure Vettel, or maybe even mount a championship challenge himself if Ferrari can provide the two of them with a car at least as good as this one.”
“In terms of outright speed, Verstappen might be the closest to Hamilton,” the former Renault driver added.
“His pace is ferocious, and if he can manage to consistently temper the aggression he showed earlier in the season, which too often got him into trouble, then he could be a serious threat to Hamilton.
“Verstappen showed how dangerous he can be in Mexico, dominating the entire weekend, albeit pipped to pole by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. It was about the only lap Ricciardo was quicker than Verstappen all weekend.
“Verstappen's race was also exemplary, defending well against Hamilton at the first corner before showing very strong pace, tyre management and race management to cruise home to a comfortable win.
“The Red Bull car is his only obstacle to a championship bid for next year, particularly its engine. But with a switch from Renault to Honda next year, there is much optimism within the team.
“Honda have made great progress over the past few years and seem now to have a better engine than Renault.”