RACE DEBRIEF

    Ferrari have made no secret of wanting to lock Charles Leclerc down for the foreseeable future – so the news he has signed a contract extension is not surprising.

    However, while the team made clear Leclerc was locked down for five seasons to the end of 2024, when they last gave a contract update for the Monegasque, this time they’ve been more opaque.

    READ MORE: Leclerc signs new Ferrari contract extension 'beyond 2024 season'

    The deal is understood to be multi-year, and is set to run for at least two seasons and feature a range of options that will give both sides flexibility, but ultimately encourage a continuation if performance is good.

    This will also go some way to explaining why it’s perhaps taken longer than both sides had anticipated to get everything signed on the dotted line.

    LAS VEGAS - Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) during the 2nd free practice prior to the Las Vegas Formula 1
    Charles Leclerc has signed a new contract extension with Ferrari beyond 2024

    Both Leclerc and Ferrari had been keen to get a deal sorted ahead of the 2024 campaign, but they independently conceded they just ran out of time during a busy end of last season to nail everything down.

    A less rigid deal this time around makes sense for both sides. The new arrangement will take Leclerc through the final year of the current regulations set in 2025 and into the following campaign with new power units – which must run 100% sustainable fuel – and revised aerodynamic rules.

    That’ll give Ferrari a chance to prove they can deliver Leclerc machinery with which he can fight for the world title when they debut their 2026 car – and it’ll give Leclerc time to assess whether that machinery is good enough or at the very least has the potential to be competitive in the next rules cycle.

    READ MORE: Verstappen and Leclerc reflect on ‘amazing’ journey from karting rivals to sharing success in F1

    Leclerc wants to succeed at Ferrari

    Leclerc’s number one goal was to stay at Ferrari. It’s a place where he wants to succeed.

    He knows boss Fred Vasseur very well, having raced for him in junior formulae at ART and he then made his F1 debut under Vasseur at Sauber in 2018. He also has a great relationship with the Scuderia’s top management, too.

    SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Sauber F1 talks with Sauber Team
    Leclerc also worked with Ferrari Team Principal Vasseur at Sauber

    That kind of set-up in any team is rare, especially at one that is as well resourced and historied as Ferrari. And with Max Verstappen locked in at Red Bull and Mercedes fully focused on Lewis Hamilton and George Russell for the coming years, serious alternatives were limited.

    Leclerc will also have seen Vasseur in action for a year, seen what the team have put in place for the future, and seen how the next few iterations of the car – including the big change for 2026 – are coming along.

    Signing such a deal suggests he has faith in what he has seen and what he has been told.

    READ MORE: Skydiving, Disneyland and tasting coffee – How F1 drivers have spent the winter break so far

    Leclerc's talent is rated highly

    For Ferrari, they have held Leclerc in high regard since they brought him into the family via their driver academy in 2016 – and they’ve seen first hand just how talented he is.

    His qualifying skill is particularly encouraging – he’s second on the list of drivers who have scored most poles for Ferrari – and some believe he is on track to be the greatest of all time in terms of one-lap speed.

    There are still kinks in his armoury to iron out – such as a few mistakes that have crept in when he’s on the limit – but he’s shown enough to suggest he’s a world champion in the making, and thus Ferrari want to keep hold of him.

    And so a deal was done, comfortably ahead of the new season, and that means attention can turn to the other seat.

    READ MORE: Button picks team who are 'most likely' to challenge Red Bull in 2024

    It’s likely that they will move to retain Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard having impressed since he joined the team from McLaren from for the 2021 season.

    He forms a great partnership with Leclerc, is ruthlessly consistent and was the only Ferrari driver to clinch victory in 2023, when he triumphed in Singapore.

    However, he is keen on a two-year deal and wants to know his future before the start of the season. But Ferrari need more time to work out if that is a commitment they want to make as, while they are keen to keep Sainz, they know they have options elsewhere.

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