2019 was a break-out year for Charles Leclerc, and now Ferrari have reiterated their faith in the Monegasque by formally announcing a contract extension lasting until the end of 2024.
Having starred for Sauber during his rookie season in 2018, Leclerc appeared to make the step up to Ferrari with ease this past campaign, becoming their youngest-ever winner and taking 10 podiums in 2019.
He said: “I am very happy to be staying on with Scuderia Ferrari. This past season, driving for the most illustrious team in Formula 1 has been a dream year for me.
“I cannot wait to enjoy an even deeper relationship with the team after what has been an intense and exciting 2019. I’m keen to see what the future holds and I can’t wait to get going again next season.”
In just his second race for the Prancing Horse, in Bahrain, he became Ferrari’s youngest ever pole-sitter before narrowly missing out on victory. The 22-year-old then captured a further six poles over the course of the season to win the pole position trophy, as well as two victories, including an emotional triumph on the Scuderia’s home soil at Monza.
He finished the season in fourth place in the championship, 24 points ahead of four-time world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel.
Team Principal Mattia Binotto added: “With each passing race this year, our wish to extend our contract with Charles became ever more self-evident and the decision means he will now be with us for the next five seasons. It demonstrates that Charles and the Scuderia have a firm future together.
“Charles has been part of our family since 2016 and we are more than proud of the results we are achieving with our Academy. We are therefore very pleased to be able to announce that he will be with us for many years to come and I’m sure that together, we will write many new pages in the history of the Prancing Horse.”
Today’s announcement does not come as a surprise, but it does put on record for the first time that – as expected – Charles Leclerc is part of Ferrari’s long-term thinking.
When the Ferrari Academy Driver joined the works team this season after just a single campaign with Sauber, few would have believed he would end the season with two wins, seven pole positions, and ahead of decorated team mate Sebastian Vettel in the standings.
Ferrari had high hopes for him, but even they have privately admitted being surprised with how quickly he’s hit the ground running – and coped with the pressure of driving at a top team. With a difficult car to drive, it was he – rather than Vettel – who adapted better and triumphed in the mental battle with the German, too.
Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri said at the media Christmas lunch earlier this month that Leclerc is “an integral part of the team” and this news serves as public confirmation of that. The youngster has integrated incredibly quickly, is well-liked by the engineers and mechanics and – critically – has marked himself out as someone the team can build themselves around,
With Vettel struggling to perform on track, publicly confirming Leclerc’s status with the team will give the Monegasque a confidence boost. In taking him off the market officially, it also prevents unnecessary speculation and wards off rival teams sniffing around and potentially destabilising him.