Charles Leclerc says he “would love to stay” at Ferrari beyond the end of his current contract but is not in a rush to start negotiations with the team.
This weekend’s Italian Grand Prix is Ferrari’s home race and leads to increased focus on the team and its performance, with both current race drivers out of contract at the end of next season. Team principal Fred Vasseur says he wants to clarify plans with Carlos Sainz one way or another before the end of this year, but Leclerc’s situation carries even more focus and the Monegasque says his intention is to re-sign.
“I have always loved Ferrari and I would love to stay,” Leclerc told BBC Sport. “I’ve always made it very clear that my goal is to try to be a world champion, but firstly with Ferrari.
“I know how difficult it is. We are not in the easiest situation. There is a big gap to fill to get to Red Bull’s level but Ferrari has helped me before I got into F1, believed in me and put me into the Ferrari seat very early on, and it’s always a team that I’ve loved.
“My priority is to win with Ferrari and it is not my worry whether I won’t achieve it or whatever. We just need to work on the team and try to improve it as much as possible, and I hope that I can achieve that one day.”
Leclerc signed a five-year contract extension in 2019 that tied him in at Ferrari long-term, and says he’s comfortable waiting a little longer to begin further talks because of the team’s overall competitive position.
“There are some jokes here and there, but no serious talks yet … Honestly, I am not in a rush. I don’t think Ferrari’s priority is signing me at the moment, which is understandable because we are all just focused on trying to have the best race car possible as quickly as possible.
“I understand that. So for now we are just focusing on the season. I am sure talks will arrive at one point during the season, probably a bit later on.”
Leclerc feels Ferrari’s SF-23 was a decent step forward from last year’s car…but concedes the performance gap to Red Bull has widened all the same. Andy Hone/Motorsport Images
Leclerc says Ferrari has not failed to hit its targets this season, but instead been caught out by how much progress Red Bull made.
“If we look on the technical side, whenever we put the car on the track at the first test, it was doing what we expected. So we expected it to be a good step forward. But unfortunately Red Bull had done twice the step, especially in the race(s), and that was just not good enough from our side.
“I don’t think we underachieved. I think just the targets were not the right ones.”