Analysis | Why a mega contract for Leclerc is logical and remarkable

Analysis | Why a mega contract for Leclerc is logical and remarkable

05-12-2023 17:00

Ludo van Denderen

If Ferrari soon announces that Charles Leclerc has signed a new, five-year contract - as the authoritative Gazzetta dello Sport wrote - the Monegasque will be among the highest-paid F1 drivers. From Leclerc's perspective, committing his long-term future to the Italian team is one to understand. Looking from Ferrari's point of view, extending the partnership with Leclerc is also logical on the one hand as well as remarkable.

Of course, Leclerc already earned a fine salary at Ferrari. Fifty million per season would put him on par with Max Verstappen (and probably Lewis Hamilton). Very understandable that the 26-year-old would eagerly put his signature on such a mega-contract, especially considering that Leclerc is very good but certainly not like Verstappen and Hamilton. After six seasons in the premier class, we're actually still waiting for the moment when Leclerc can seriously compete for the world title.

Leclerc not yet World Championship material

There was a first glimpse in 2022 when he managed to trouble Max Verstappen in the Red Bull in the season's early stages. But it was no more than that; troublesome. When all was said and done, Leclerc often made silly mistakes (remember the French Grand Prix that year). Even in 2023 - a season in which Leclerc was regularly outclassed by teammate Carlos Sainz - the Monegasque was not yet the stable driver who took his Ferrari across the finish line without a hitch. Looking at it this way, five seasons of Leclerc and a salary of 50 million might be a bit too much of a good thing. Indeed, for now, he does not seem to be the man to gift Ferrari the world title.

Still, Ferrari are going all out. It is no secret that Leclerc is the darling within Ferrari - more so than Sainz, anyway. That the Italians are keeping him in for longer is justifiable from Ferrari's point of view: Leclerc is a driver trained by Ferrari and is an excellent poster boy for the team. Besides, who else should Ferrari commit their future to? Max Verstappen and Lando Norris - those other young stars of the F1 grid are still with Red Bull Racing and McLaren for years to come, respectively.

Leclerc holds an important trump card

If news reports are to be believed, there will be a review after three seasons. That gives Charles Leclerc an important advantage. Should it turn out that after the 2026 rule change, the Ferrari is not competitive enough to make a run for the world title after all, the driver can easily seek refuge elsewhere.

On the other hand, if Ferrari can simply contract another top driver at the evaluation time - name a Norris, Piastri or maybe even Verstappen - then the team has the option of ripping up the hugely expensive contract with Leclerc. It doesn't have to come to that, but then both Ferrari and Leclerc need to step up to the mark: a competitive car and a driver who knows how to bring his speed during qualifying to the race on Sunday.