According to a recent report in the Italian media, Charles Leclerc is prepared to commit his future to Ferrari with a contract extension.
The Monegasque driver’s current deal, signed at the conclusion of his debut season in red in 2019, is set to expire come the end of 2024.
With speculation arising about his situation before the 2022 season, Ferrari’s lousy Bahrain performance threw fresh doubt into Leclerc’s long-term future remaining with the Italian team.
Leclerc retired from a distant third position on Lap 39 of the opening race of the year.
However, the Italian publication Formula Uno Analisi Tecnica has said that Leclerc’s only priority remains thinking about winning the World Championship with Ferrari.
The report states: “Charles has no intention of abandoning Ferrari. On the contrary, he would like to further tie his future to the red [team].
“Leclerc does want to become a Formula One World Champion as soon as possible. But he wants to do it with Ferrari,” it went on to add.
Intriguingly, Leclerc fuelled further speculation he intends to renew terms with the legendary Italian team by liking a tweet on his Twitter account that recited an extract from the article.
Leclerc finished a career-high second place in the Drivers’ standings last season, achieving three wins.
Although it delivered on Ferrari’s pre-season expectation of winning races again, the speed of its 2022 car in the early rounds initiated hopes of title success.
A grand slam in Australia marked Leclerc’s second win inside three rounds, leaving him 43 points clear of eventual champion Max Verstappen at that stage.
But a string of reliability problems, strategy errors and the occasional driver mistake witnessed Ferrari’s title challenge peter out.
Having stopped development on its 2022 car early last summer to allocate complete focus and resources to 2023, Ferrari was confident it had addressed the main weaknesses from last year.
But an engine failure for Leclerc and tyre degradation struggles for team-mate Carlos Sainz saw neither Ferrari on the podium.
It represented a stark contrast from how the Scuderia began the previous campaign in Bahrain when Leclerc converted pole position and led home a 1-2 finish.
Even before Leclerc’s untimely exit from this year’s event, the lead Ferrari driver was unable to challenge the mighty Red Bull pair, sitting 25s behind a coasting Verstappen in the lead.
After such a frustrating opening race, reports from the Italian media surfaced suggesting that an unsatisfied Leclerc had called for a meeting with Ferrari chairman John Elkann.
However, new Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur has since defused the situation by highlighting such meetings are a regular affair.
“We spoke with the drivers, Elkann and [Benedetto] Vigna (Ferrari CEO) after winter testing, and we will all speak again together after Imola. These meetings are planned,” he told AutoHebdo.
There has been long-standing speculation that Leclerc could be the subject of interest from the Mercedes camp.
George Russell is tied down long-term, but Lewis Hamilton is yet to agree to continue his hugely successful venture with the German manufacturer.
Ex-British F1 World Champions Jenson Button and Damon Hill reckon Hamilton’s reluctance to have already sorted out a new deal has developed from Mercedes’ early season struggles.
The Brackley-based operation finished fifth and seventh in Bahrain, with team boss Toto Wolff saying it would have to move away from its current car concept.