Ferrari open contract talks with Charles Leclerc after ‘reassurances’ – report

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc points to the Ferrari badge. Baku, April 2023.

Charles Leclerc points to the Ferrari badge after setting pole position at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Ferrari have opened contract discussions with Charles Leclerc after “mutual reassurances” following a challenging start to the F1 2023 season, it has been claimed.

Leclerc has emerged as one of the most gifted drivers on the grid since arriving at Ferrari, claiming 19 pole positions and five victories since the beginning of the 2019 season.

Having held a convincing lead in the Drivers’ Championship after a strong start to the 2022 campaign, Leclerc was disappointed to finish as the runner-up to Max Verstappen before Ferrari’s poor start to 2023 raised considerable doubts over his future with the team.

After retiring from two of the first three races, Leclerc currently sits seventh in the standings ahead of this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix having claimed just a single podium finish – third place in Azerbaijan – to date.

Leclerc has been strongly linked with a move to Mercedes to potentially succeed seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, with team boss Toto Wolff admitting over the Baku weekend that the 25-year-old must register on his long-term radar.

With rumours persisting since late 2022 that he already has a pre-contract agreement in place with Mercedes, Leclerc was cagey when asked in Azerbaijan if he had held talks with the eight-time Constructors’ Champions.

“No, not yet,” he replied. “Not at the moment.”

However, a report by the established FIA-accredited journalist Giuliano Duchessa for Italian publication has claimed that talks to extend Leclerc’s contract – currently set to expire at the end of the 2024 season are now underway. recommends

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Following the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, the report claims Ferrari president John Elkann has been present at the team’s Maranello base “for a series of meetings.”

As well as touching on the future of assistant team principal and race director Laurent Mekies – recently announced as Franz Tost’s successor as AlphaTauri team principal – with chief executive Benedetto Vigna and team principal Fred Vasseur, Mr Elkann has taken steps to issue “important guarantees” to Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz regarding the direction of the team.

“Sources suggest that after mutual reassurances, discussions on Leclerc’s contract extension are now closer,” Duchessa writes.

With rumours persisting that Ferrari have embarked upon a major recruitment drive, the report also claims that Red Bull’s Enrico Balbo, Paul Monaghan and Pierre Wachè will not be appearing in red.

Meanwhile, a report by Mail Sport has claimed that Mr Elkann is already in “close contact” with Hamilton and is preparing an offer of £40million to tempt the 38-year-old to join Ferrari as Leclerc’s tram-mate next season.

The news of Leclerc’s contract renegotiations comes after Damon Hill, the 1996 World Champion, claimed that the Monegasque is likely to find himself “stuck at Ferrari for a bit” longer.

“He’s never really been in an extended campaign for the Championship.

“There have always been moments that it’s been good and then they’ve faded, and he’s also had these blots on his copybook with qualifying, the banzai lap that goes wrong and stuff.

“When you look around at the top teams and who they have in their teams, they’re probably content with what they’ve got at the moment. I’m not sure that there’s anywhere else for him to go.

“Red Bull, I doubt it. Mercedes, I’m sure that Toto will be sticking with Lewis [Hamilton] until Lewis decides he’s not going to race anymore, and I think Charles is the perfect fit for Ferrari.

“So I think he’s there for the long term, until they give him a car that he can go for a Championship with.”