Committing Charles Leclerc to a long-term deal but only said to be offering Carlos Sainz a year, maximum two, former F1 driver Eddie Irvine reckons that’s because the former is the “better of the two” Ferrari drivers.
Although Leclerc only pipped Sainz at the last in 2023 to lead their season head-to-head 2-1 in their years together, securing Leclerc’s future was Ferrari’s priority when it came to their driver line-up.
Both drivers went into January’s pre-season preparations facing the final year on their Ferrari deals. It, however, is only Leclerc who’s guaranteed to stay past December at the moment.
‘It’s clear that Leclerc has a bit more talent’
Ferrari announced last week that the five-time Grand Prix winner would continue beyond 2024 with the driver speaking of “several more seasons to come”.
He added: “I believe the best is yet to come and I can’t wait for this season to start, to make further progress and be competitive at every race. My dream remains that of winning the World Championship with Ferrari.”
But while Leclerc was smiling, Sainz’s omission from the Ferrari press release was glaringly obvious.
According to various reports, it’s the duration of his next contract that is causing the hold-up with Sainz wanting “not just two years” while Ferrari are only offering one, a maximum of two.
That’s because they want to keep the options open for 2026 with the likes of Alex Albon and Ferrari junior Oliver Bearman potential candidates to replace Sainz.
Irvine isn’t surprised, after all, he reckons Leclerc is the more talented of the Ferrari team-mates.
“It’s clear that Leclerc has a bit more talent,” the former Ferarri driver told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Sainz had good races, he has won, and he was competitive compared to his team-mate, but Charles is clearly the better of the two.
“The fact that he lacked success last year doesn’t change my opinion.
“At the end of the season, when the car improved, the Monegasque showed all his value.”
Sainz wants a new contract wrapped up before the 2024 season begins
Sainz remains hopeful of signing a new deal before the 2024 season begins in Bahrain in late February.
“My goal is to start 2024 knowing where I’m going to race in 2025,” Sainz said in December. “I wouldn’t like to start the season without knowing my next destination.
“My priority is to stay at Ferrari for many more years. I’m very happy, both parties are very happy and the objective is to continue, but we have to agree.
“Obviously I want to renew and I’d like to renew for more than one year, not just two.
“You know my intentions and honestly I feel perfectly valued by Fred and by the whole Ferrari family in general, I feel loved.
“Therefore, I will renew if I feel that way and I feel that I am valued. That as a driver that is the main priority. I am convinced that if we both want to, we will reach an agreement on a duration that I am happy with.”
Ferrari will launch their new challenger on February 13, ahead of pre-season testing taking place from February 21-23 in Sakhir.