Leclerc’s Future: Mercedes’ Long-Term Consideration, Not Priority
In a world of high-speed intrigue, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is on their “long-term” radar, he isn’t a priority for the “short- and medium-term.” Amidst swirling rumors, Leclerc’s contract with Ferrari is set to expire at the end of 2024, sparking speculation about him possibly replacing the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton upon his retirement.
Leclerc’s contract with Ferrari is set to expire at the end of 2024, and rumors have been swirling for months about the possibility of him joining Mercedes as a replacement for seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton once he retires.
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes concludes this season, but he is anticipated to extend his commitment for another two years, as previously hinted.
During the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, Leclerc faced more inquiries about potential interest from Mercedes. Although he stated that there had been no contact, he added, “not yet,” which sparked further speculation.
When questioned in Azerbaijan by F1Lead about monitoring Leclerc’s contract situation and any communication with him or his representatives, Wolff responded, “I think nobody doubts Charles’ ability. He is a good guy.”
Wolff went on to say that the only conversation he had with Leclerc was a casual chat about the location of the gate in Melbourne while boarding a plane, and there has been no other contact.
Wolff believes that Leclerc is fully committed and loyal to Ferrari, just as Mercedes is completely dedicated to finalizing a contract with Lewis Hamilton.
When pressed once more about whether Leclerc should be considered if he becomes available, Wolff stated, “Charles is a great guy, and for the long-term future, he’s someone you always need to keep on your radar. That’s clear. But not for the short- and medium-term.”
Rumors surrounding Leclerc’s future have grown in light of Ferrari’s disappointing start to the season, which comes after the collapse of his championship campaign in the first half of 2022.
Ferrari underwent a change in team leadership over the winter, with Leclerc’s long-time supporter Fred Vasseur taking the helm. However, this change was accompanied by additional personnel shifts, such as the exit of head of vehicle concept David Sanchez and the recent announcement that senior team member Laurent Mekies will depart to join AlphaTauri.
The perceived instability at Ferrari’s management level, combined with the team’s ongoing underperformance, has led to doubts about whether Leclerc can genuinely compete for a championship with Ferrari in the future.
However, Vasseur believes that Leclerc’s remarks on Thursday in Baku confirmed his commitment to the project, expressing his desire to become world champion with Ferrari.
After securing an unexpected pole position in Baku on Friday, Leclerc celebrated by pointing to the Ferrari emblem on his racing suit and referred to the achievement as a morale boost for the team amidst rumors surrounding him and the team.
Leclerc acknowledged that dealing with rumors and pressure is part of their job in Formula 1 teams, but performing under such circumstances can be challenging. Nevertheless, he felt that they did well in Baku, which is a positive sign for the entire team.
Mercedes’ top priority is to maintain the Hamilton-George Russell duo, which was established last year and appears to be one of the most evenly matched pairings in F1.
Though Hamilton has not won a race since the controversial end to the 2021 season, he has already reached the podium this year, despite Mercedes facing challenges at the start of the season.
While Hamilton has previously mentioned he does not intend to race until he’s 40, an upcoming Mercedes contract will likely extend his career to that milestone. However, the new contract is still considered a certainty.
Wolff expressed confidence in Hamilton’s strength and ability, admitting that the team might not be competing for a driver’s championship this year. Nevertheless, he emphasized the need to provide Hamilton with a car capable of winning.
Wolff remains hopeful that Mercedes can develop a winning package this season, enabling Hamilton to pursue his eighth title. He has no doubts about Hamilton’s motivation to achieve this goal, stating that racing is what he loves to do.
Wolff also highlighted the strong personal and professional relationship between himself, Hamilton, and the team as a crucial factor in their success over the past decade.
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