Despite speculation that Mercedes will push for Charles Leclerc to succeed Lewis Hamilton, new Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur is in no hurry to secure the Monégasque driver to an extended contract.
Instead, he says his main priority today is to make sure Ferrari gets off to a good start in 2023.
The rest, including the contracts of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, can be arranged in time.
Both Leclerc and Sainz are under contract with Ferrari until the end of the 2024 season, but with the Scuderia failing to mount a title challenge last season, there are already rumors that Leclerc’s future could lie elsewhere.
Former Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor recently stated that he would “imagine Toto trying to go ahead of Charles Leclerc.
“It would probably be a mess to put Leclerc with Russell, but if he is willing to put Russell with Hamilton, of course he will be willing to put him with Charles Leclerc.”
It’s not the first time it has been suggested that Leclerc could move to Mercedes in the future and, unless Ferrari can give him a car – and team – that can fight for the championship this season, it won’t be the last.
“Mattia Binotto was done with Ferrari when he waved his finger in Leclerc’s face”
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However, Vasseur says he is in no rush to hold contract talks with either driver.
“I know both drivers quite well and I think we have some time before we start talking about the future,” he said at a recent press briefing.
“For me this is not the first priority today.
“We have to start the season very well, then there will be time for the rest. I think it would be a mistake to start negotiations at a time when the priority is different.”
Asked specifically about Leclerc, the Frenchman said, according to Motorsport.com: “I don’t want to bring this topic up today, I don’t think it would be a good way to start the partnership.
“We have to focus on the sporting side to get results. And it’s like before the wedding, if both sides of the table are happy with the situation, we’ll continue.
“But I think it’s not the priority today. We have a good relationship. And we have time to talk about this.
“First, I think the only topic today is, we need to be focused on pure performance and getting results.”
Only results will secure Leclerc’s future at Ferrari
Leclerc was asked about his future at Ferrari late last season, with Corriere dello Sport asking him if he would get a ‘lifetime contract’ if he signed it.
He replied: “To stay in the red forever would be a dream. Driving for Ferrari is every driver’s dream and I’m living it.”
But while the dream may be to drive for Ferrari, the dream of winning a Drivers’ Championship title is bigger and if Ferrari can’t give him that chance then the driver will have to look elsewhere.
Although Ferrari has a new team boss this season, it is still the same group that designs the car, works on the engine and sets the strategies.
All of the above must improve if Ferrari hopes to keep Leclerc beyond 2024, or perhaps more accurately, beyond Hamilton’s extension.