Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur insists he has no concerns Charles Leclerc may seek to leave the team following his disappointing start to the 2023 season.
Leclerc is in the fourth year of a five-year deal to drive for Ferrari. During that time the team’s performance slumped in 2020, then rebounded, and last year he won three races and finished second in the championship.
Ferrari has begun 2023 on the back foot again, however. Leclerc lies 10th in the standings after the first three races. That has prompted speculation he may seek to move elsewhere.
Frederic Vasseur, whom Leclerc previously worked with at Sauber, took over as team principal at the beginning of the year. However the team has since lost top staff members including sporting director Laurent Mekies and head of vehicle design David Sanchez.
Nonetheless Vasseur remains confident of agreeing a new deal with Leclerc, telling reporters in Baku today discussions will begin this year. “We will do it in the course of the season,” he said.
“He’s under contract with us for more than one year now and we’ll have time to discuss it. I’m not scared at all and I think it’s not the right moment to do it.”
Leclerc remains central to Ferrari’s efforts to score its first world championship victory in 15 years, said Vasseur. “He’s clearly part of the project. He’s not a spectator of this.
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“He’s involved in the development of the team. He’s part of the development because he’s developing himself. He’s a performance contributor both on-track and out of the track. And as long as he will play this role we are on a good path.”
Vasseur said he hopes to emulate the same kind of success with Leclerc that other teams have had with F1’s most successful drivers. “It’s true in every single team that you are always building a team around the driver.
“If you have a look over the last 20 years or even more, all the successful top stories in F1 took time, but it was always a team built-up around some one driver. It was true with Lewis at Mercedes, it was true before with Michael at Ferrari, it was true with Alonso at Renault, it was true everywhere. Vettel and Red Bull, you can find tons of examples.
“For sure Charles is an important pillar of the performance and he has to play the role into the car, outside of the car to be a performance contributor and he is fully supportive on this part of the job. And I’m really convinced that it’s also a personal commitment from himself.”
Leclerc has been rumoured as a potential replacement for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. However the seven-times champion’s current contract comes up for renewal at the end of this season – one year before Leclerc’s Ferrari deal runs out
No conversations have taken place between Mercedes and Leclerc so far, according to the driver. “Not yet,” he said. “Not for the moment.
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“For now, I am fully focussed on the project I am in today, which is Ferrari. As I said, I fully trust and I am confident for the future. Then we’ll see. But I’m fully confident for the project of Ferrari.”
“I’m fully committed to Ferrari and I love Ferrari,” Leclerc added. “It’s always been a dream for me to be in this team and my main priority is to win a world championship with the team. So it’s not something in my mind.”
Hamilton dismissed speculation his seat could be taken by Leclerc. “I think maybe some of the drivers will speak or have relationships with different bosses and stuff. [But] I like where I am, I love my team and I’m grateful for the journey we’ve been on and what we’re working on moving forward. So it doesn’t have any impact, no.”
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