Ferrari principal Fred Vasseur has emphatically rubbished the chatter that his driver Charles Leclerc has held talks with Mercedes.
Although the F1 2023 campaign is only four rounds old, already the annual ‘silly season’ in the driver market is threatening to spark into life.
And a key part of this complex puzzle seemingly could involve Ferrari driver Leclerc and Mercedes’ seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
While it is expected that Hamilton will sign fresh terms with Mercedes, the fact that confirmation is yet to arrive, all while Mercedes are once again struggling adrift of the title picture, has led to some speculation that Hamilton and Mercedes will not agree a new deal.
And even if Hamilton does commit to Mercedes beyond the 2023 campaign, it has been reported that when Hamilton does ultimately retire, Leclerc is right at the top of Mercedes’ list as his replacement.
Leclerc’s contract situation is that his current Ferrari deal will expire after the 2024 campaign.
But, Leclerc has dismissed the alleged “open secret” of the paddock that he has held talks with Mercedes, stressing that he has not, or “not yet” anyway.
And Vasseur now has also moved to state that all this gossip is nothing more than that.
“The rumours about Charles and Mercedes are bullsh*t,” said Vasseur, as per the Mirror. “Charles said he loves Ferrari and wants to win with Ferrari.
“We are at the beginning of the season, where there is much gossip we will hear every weekend, but we are not worried.”
Charles Leclerc should not chase Mercedes move…yet
Just a couple of years ago, a Mercedes seat was Formula 1’s answer to the golden ticket for a driver’s ambitions to become World Champion.
But alas, F1 2023 marks the second successive campaign where Mercedes are struggling to hit those past lofty heights, and right now, it cannot really be said that Mercedes is a stronger bet for Leclerc to win a first World title than Ferrari.
Sure, Ferrari’s barren spell stretches all the way back to 2008 now, in terms of title glory at least, though Ferrari’s positive step last time out in Azerbaijan means that they and Mercedes are in a pretty similar position in that chasing pack behind runaway leaders Red Bull.
That being said, while Mercedes do not look like a notably stronger outfit than Ferrari right now, Leclerc should keep a very close eye on what Mercedes do when the new-look W14 arrives, team boss Toto Wolff promising a “layout” change for the challenger come Imola.
Mercedes have decided that their unique take on the current Technical Regulations is not paying off, and see this fresh direction as their ticket back to the top.
This is a team which has risen the ranks before, and if this change of approach does show signs of triggering a Mercedes resurgence, then Leclerc absolutely should be sneaking his way down to Mercedes hospitality for a rather important chat.