Three reasons why Leclerc’s rumoured Ferrari extension makes sense

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Reputable Italian sports publication La Gazzetta della Sport has claimed that Charles Leclerc is on the cusp of agreeing a new five-year contract with Ferrari.

The deal, if agreed, would keep Leclerc at Maranello until 2029, and represents a serious vote of confidence in the direction of the team from the Monegasque as he enters his prime years as a driver.

Much like Max Verstappen – whose hefty salary Leclerc could match by the end of the deal – at Red Bull, or Lando Norris at McLaren or George Russell at Mercedes, Leclerc is Ferrari’s so-called ‘franchise driver.’

He is perhaps the fastest driver on the grid over a single lap in qualifying and would command a move to any team on the grid – specifically Mercedes or Red Bull when Lewis Hamilton retires and if Max Verstappen unexpectedly quits as he has threatened to do.

In terms of Ferrari’s competitive prospects, not much has changed for Leclerc since he agreed the five-year deal in 2019 that raised more than a few eyebrows, that enters its final year next season.

Back then, the team found itself a big step behind Mercedes, capable of challenging for the odd win and a bucket full of pole positions and podiums, but certainly nowhere near a title tilt.

Now, the team finds itself an even bigger step behind Red Bull, having failed to capitalise on the early success of the ground effects era in 2022. In 2023, Leclerc completed his third winless season from five at the Scuderia.

It is unlikely to close the chasm to Red Bull over a single winter, and for the ferociously competitive Leclerc, another year written off as the team tries to get its ducks in a row will simply not cut the mustard.

So why then has the five-time Grand Prix winner reportedly decided to put all his chips on Maranello?

Leclerc’s bumper Ferrari extension

There are three major reasons why.

Firstly, Leclerc cherishes the bond he holds with the Tifosi, and in 2019 became the first driver in a Cavalino Rampante to win the Italian Grand Prix since Fernando Alonso in 2010.

He is loyal to Ferrari for guiding him through the junior ranks and placing its faith in him for 2019 in what was his sophomore year in Grand Prix racing. Not since Hamilton’s rookie season in 2007 has a driver been placed in a race-winning machine so early in their career.

The second reason is the relationship with Team Principal Frederic Vasseur, who was at Sauber for Leclerc’s 2018 rookie season.

By the end of 2022, Leclerc’s relationship with then-boss Mattia Binotto became strained, with the engineering-minded boss more sympathetic towards the dogged Carlos Sainz’s way of working across the garage than Leclerc’s ‘get in it and sort it out when you get to the corner’ approach.

Vasseur is a shrewd, canny operator when it comes to running a race team, and as such is the ideal person to guide Ferrari back into title contention, and plus it helps smooth over any doubts on Leclerc’s behalf to have someone he trusts at the helm of the good ship Maranello.

The final reason is that Leclerc needs Ferrari and Ferrari needs Leclerc.

While the 2025 driver market could be volatile with 14 of the 20 drivers set to be entering talks with their teams, unless something extraordinary happens, the big teams are set to stick rather than twist.

A wildcard may be Aston Martin if Fernando Alonso hangs his helmet up after ’24.

There is nowhere that could and should offer Leclerc a car capable of challenging for the championship unless a team does a Brawn and comes up with a package that catches the rest off guard, especially for the 2026 rules reset.

As for Ferrari needing Leclerc, what would it say about the state of F1’s most iconic outfit if the driver it has nurtured from cradle to elite elects to jump ship having lost faith in its ability to deliver?

Leclerc is certainly taking a gamble in locking himself in for five more years with Ferrari – even if Gazzetta claims there is a break clause after three seasons. It is more than a marriage of convenience but the window to deliver is closing, quickly.

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