Wolff compares Ferrari new recruit Leclerc to young Hamilton

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has no doubt Charles Leclerc will be "on pace" with the contenders after joining Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc on duty for Ferrari during pre-season testing.   -  Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Toto Wolff sees similarities between Charles Leclerc and a young Lewis Hamilton, as he expects the new Ferrari driver to be challenging for the Formula One crown this year.

After impressing for Sauber in his debut season on the F1 grid last year, Leclerc was signed to replace Kimi Raikkonen and will join forces with Sebastian Vettel at the Italian team in 2019.

The 21-year-old made an immediate impression during the pre-season testing in Barcelona this week, clocking the fastest lap time on the second day after Vettel had done the same 24 hours earlier.

READ: No nerves for Ferrari new boy Leclerc

Ferrari's new addition has certainly caught the eye of Wolff, with the Mercedes principal drawing comparisons to Hamilton when the Briton first entered the sport over a decade ago.

Asked if Leclerc could be a threat to the reigning champion's hopes of retaining his title, Wolff replied: "Yes, of course.

"He's like Lewis when he entered Formula One, back in 2007. I've no doubt that he [Leclerc] will be on pace."

Mercedes also won the constructors' crown last year at a canter but Ferrari's performances in testing have laid down an early marker ahead of the new season, which starts with the Australian Grand Prix on March 17.

Read: Hamilton fires F1 title warning as new Mercedes hits track

However, Wolff insists both teams - as well as the rest of the F1 grid - will "have stuff up their sleeves" to improve their cars over the coming months.

"They looked very good in testing," Wolff said of Ferrari's work on Spanish soil.

"Everybody will have stuff up their sleeves that they have not shown and will either show in Barcelona, or Melbourne, or later in the season.

"You don't know how much there is - the fuel loads give you so much variability."