Charles Leclerc urged to avoid ditching Ferrari for ‘pension’ move to Audi F1

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc speaks to the media at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Charles Leclerc speaks to the media at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

F1 business expert Mark Gallagher believes a potential move to newcomers Audi would represent a “step down” for Ferrari star Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc has established himself as one of the most gifted drivers on the grid since arriving at Ferrari in 2019, but has claimed just five wins in four-and-a-half seasons at Maranello.

After finishing as runner-up to Max Verstappen in the 2022 standings, Leclerc had targeted an assault on the World Championship this year – but Ferrari remain winless after the first 12 races of 2023 with Leclerc without a victory since last season’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc advised against swapping Ferrari for Audi

With his current contract due to expire at the end of 2024, Leclerc has been linked with a move to the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull – with Audi, set to take control of the existing Alfa Romeo/Sauber team in time for F1’s next major rule change in 2026, emerging as another potential alternative.

Leclerc made his F1 debut with Sauber back in 2018, yet speaking via the GP Racing magazine podcast Gallagher feels only finances could tempt the 25-year-old to return to the Swiss-based outfit – likening the move to Eddie Irvine joining Jaguar for 2000 after coming within two points of the title with Ferrari the previous season.

He said: “You look at Charles Leclerc in relation to Ferrari and you look at what the alternatives are. He could definitely go and earn a great deal of money driving elsewhere – and with the likes of Audi coming in, he could take a big paycheck.

“But I think for Charles to go from Ferrari to Audi would be a little bit like Eddie Irvine going from Ferrari to Jaguar. It’s just a pension. It would be a step down for him.”

Despite his obvious natural speed, Gallagher fears Leclerc lacks the leadership qualities to get Ferrari back on track, which would limit his usefulness to an emerging team like Audi in 2026.

He explained: “He hasn’t proven himself to be able to develop Ferrari and that’s a long-established team – so what’s the opportunity for him to develop what will effectively be a new team under Audi?

“Whether you’re talking Ferrari or whether you’re talking Audi, it’s actually all a similar story about getting structures and people and processes in place that deliver success for you.

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“Ferrari don’t have that in place at the present time and Charles Leclerc, unfortunately, is being dragged down in the vortex of that and he is, by all accounts, not the man to turn it around.

“Very quick racing driver, but he’s not yet a leader of a team. And at the age of 25, if he hasn’t [already] developed those characteristics he’s probably never going to.”

Gallagher’s co-host Stuart Codling added: “He’s no [Fernando] Alonso, is he?”

Leclerc’s current team-mate Carlos Sainz has been strongly linked with a move to Audi, with a report by Italian publication Corriere dello Sport last month indicating that Ferrari are already preparing for the Spaniard to leave and had identified his replacement.

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