Damon Hill, the 1996 Formula 1 Champion, believes Charles Leclerc has no better place to go other than Ferrari at the moment.
Leclerc’s current contract with Ferrari runs until the end of the 2024 F1 season, and there has been much speculation regarding the 25-year-old’s future with the Reds as results continue to elude them since their collaboration started back in 2019.
Leclerc is on his fifth season with Ferrari, and has shown during his time there that he has immense talent, beating Sebastian Vettel in their first season together, and then keeping the German’s replacement, Carlos Sainz at bay, in exception for 2021 when the Spaniard showed decent form against the Monegasque.
2022 was the first time that Ferrari has a chance of fighting for he Championship, as their first car built to the current “ground effect” regulations, the F1-75, proved to be fast out of the box, on qualifying pace that is, but Leclerc put it to good use at the start of the season when Red Bull still struggled with an overweight RB18.
However, Ferrari’s momentum faded over the course of the season as the F1-75 turned out to be a bad car on race day, with excessive tyre wear, handing over the advantage to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while Leclerc made some driver errors that – compounded with reliability woes and bad strategy decisions from the Red pit wall – meant the Title challenge was over.
On the back foot in 2023
Ferrari entered the 2023 F1 season in turmoil, with Mattia Binotto leaving over the winter, replaced by Frederic Vasseur, and several other senior staff following the former Ferrari boss out, the latest being Laurent Mekies, the team’s Sporting Director who will become AlphaTauri’s new team boss replacing retirement-bound Franz Tost.
To make things worse, the SF-23, Ferrari’s current F1 car does not seem to be an improvement from its predecessor – as a matter of fact it seems worse – and with Leclerc having a miserable season so far, the reports of a breakup between driver and team inevitable emerged.
But F1 driver turned pundit Damon Hill believes Leclerc has no where to go with the current driver market; he told Sky Sports F1: “I think he’s [Leclerc] rather stuck at Ferrari for a bit.
“He’s never really been in an extended campaign for the championship. There have been moments that it’s been good and then they’ve faded, and he’s also had these blots on his copybook with qualifying, the banzai lap that goes wrong.
“When you look around at the top teams, who they have in their teams, they’re probably content with what they’ve got at the moment – I’m not sure that there’s anywhere else for him to go,” the Briton pointed out.
Mercedes are currently negotiating a contract extension with Lewis Hamilton, expected to happen, while Red Bull have Max Verstappen under contract until 2028.
All the good seats are occupied
Hill added: “Red Bull, I doubt it. Mercedes, I’m sure that Toto will be sticking with Lewis until Lewis decides that he’s not going to race anymore, and I think Charles is the perfect fit for Ferrari. So I think he’s there for the long term, until they give him a car that he can go for a championship with.”
What if Leclerc swaps Red for Green, with Aston Martin being on the rise, and Fernando Alonso not getting any younger? Hill commented: “Aston Martin are a coming team.
“Possibly, if it continues to be dire at Ferrari, then maybe he’ll look elsewhere, but I think he’s better off where he is,” the 62-year-old concluded.
Leclerc, is adamant he is sticking with Ferrari, claiming he has had zero talks with Mercedes, but added he wants to win the F1 Title.
“I hope to be in Maranello in the coming seasons as well. I am happy here, it has always been my dream to be a Ferrari driver,” he said. “This is one of my dreams that I have already achieved, but that is not all.
“I want to win a world championship, in fact, several world championships if possible. I will do everything until the end of my career to achieve this goal,” Leclerc insisted.
Will his achieve that with Ferrari? Only time will tell.