Charles Leclerc has downplayed any suggestion that talks have already begun on extending his Formula 1 contract with Ferrari.
The Monegasque driver was promoted to the senior Ferrari outfit after only a singular season’s worth of experience in F1 and an impressive debut campaign saw him immediately earn a five-year extension at the conclusion of 2019.
But heading into his fifth season with the Italian team, Leclerc’s existing deal is set to run out at the end of 2024, along with that of his Ferrari team-mate, Carlos Sainz.
While the arrival of former boss Fred Vasseur accelerated speculative claims talks might be ongoing, Leclerc has dismissed that conversations over his long-term future in F1 have already taken place, despite an undiminishing passion for the sport’s most decorated outfit.
“No, there are no talks ongoing now, at least,” was the answer Leclerc gave to Sky Sports F1. “I love the red colour. I love Ferrari. I am happy here. But we’ll see what the future holds.
“It is very early to speak about this. My contract ends [at the end of 2024].”
After collecting three race wins and finishing a career-best second in last season’s Drivers’ standings, Leclerc has set himself and his team the target of going one better in 2023.
Leclerc expects Lewis Hamilton to be one of his main competitors for the crown if Mercedes recovers from its torrid title defence last term, while the Ferrari driver has not discounted the threat likely to be posed once more by Red Bull and reigning champion, Max Verstappen.
“Lewis will never be out of the question for a championship fight; if he has the car, he will be there. “We must forget what he has achieved. He still has it. We saw that plenty of times last year.
“Mercedes, I am sure, will be there. They had a very strong end to the season last year. Lewis will be there, like Red Bull will be too,” he added.
A blistering start to 2022 that consisted of winning two of the opening three races witnessed Leclerc lead the championship convincingly and emerge as the early title favourite last season.
However, a string of reliability woes meant his challenge swiftly fizzled out, as only a solitary win in Austria followed across the 19 rounds proceeding his dominance at the third round in Australia.
Asked about the work done in Maranello over the winter to tackle such problems, Leclerc said: “The big work was done on reliability. I don’t want to express too much, but there has been a lot of work.
“I hope we won’t have a lot of reliability issues. We finished second in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships, and the logical next step is to win. We know how difficult it will be. But we are putting a lot of work in.
“It will be a difficult championship, but we’ll do everything in our hands to make it work.”