Charles Leclerc has revealed he and Ferrari have “slowly” begun to discuss an extension to his Formula 1 contract, which currently runs out at the end of 2024.
There has been intense speculation about Leclerc’s Ferrari future after his and the team’s title challenge in 2022 fell apart.
The Scuderia’s SF-23 package this year has been running well adrift of Red Bull’s class- leading RB19.
During the early rounds of the season, Leclerc was linked with Mercedes as the German manufacturer is yet to sign Lewis Hamilton to a new deal alongside George Russell – talk that was quickly quashed by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur also said back at the Australian Grand Prix in April that he was “not scared at all” about the possibility of losing Leclerc post-2024 and that it was then “not the right moment” to start negotiations about a possible extension.
But outside speculation has continued to mount about Leclerc’s future with Ferrari after his recent qualifying problems in Spain and Canada.
In Montreal, the Monegasque driver openly criticised his team for its decision not to change to slicks early in the wet Q2 session where he was subsequently knocked out, but afterwards Vasseur insisted his driver had later said “Ok, I was wrong” following internal discussions.
Ahead of the Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring this weekend, Motorsport.com asked Leclerc if he had begun talks about extending his new deal following his team-mate Carlos Sainz explaining he wanted his own Ferrari future sorted this winter and Leclerc replied: “Slowly.
“We’re starting slowly to speak about it, yes.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Ferrari
But Leclerc said that unlike Sainz, he does not “have any particular deadlines” for doing a new deal with Ferrari as he feels “like a year-and-a-half is a long way to go”.
“To be honest, it’s not really on my mind yet,” he added. “When I say we slowly started talking about it, it’s just here and there, but nothing special, nothing specific.”
Shortly afterwards, Leclerc appeared to row back on his previous comments, saying the discussions he had had with Ferrari were “just jokes here and there – nothing formal or specific”.
Then, in response to a subsequent question asking if he would also be keeping his options to possibly move to another team in 2025 open, Leclerc insisted that “I love Ferrari, so I’m happy here”.
“I’m not saying that [I want to keep my options open],” he explained.
“Ferrari has been the team that has helped me to get to where I am. [I’ve] never hidden that I’ve always been extremely happy to be in Ferrari.
“Of course, the team and I are not happy with where we are at the moment, but I think we’re all working in the right direction.
“And I am confident that we are working in the right direction. And, again, I love Ferrari, so I’m happy here.”
Regarding media discussion on hypothetical moves to Mercedes or elsewhere in his F1 future, Leclerc acknowledged that “it’s probably the first time in my career that I’m in this position” after his promotion from Ferrari junior entering F1 with Sauber in 2018 to the works squad the following year.
“I don’t think [that’s] because nobody wanted me in the past, it’s just because the nature of the contract it’s the first time in my career that I actually get closer to a deal to end in Formula 1,” he added.
“And all of the other changes I’ve made until now – basically Sauber to Ferrari was quite straightforward.
“So, it is a different situation I find myself in in my career. But I don’t mind – I’m just focusing on driving, I just hope to win as quickly as possible in Ferrari for now and then we will see.”