F1 preview: A lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur has poured cold water on the possibility of Charles Leclerc joining Mercedes despite Toto Wolff refusing to rule out a move for the 25-year-old at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Leclerc has been linked with the Silver Arrows over the last few weeks amid the ongoing uncertainty over the long-term future of Lewis Hamilton, who will be out of contract at the end of this year as things stand.
Some reports have suggested that preliminary discussions between Leclerc and Mercedes have already taken place, although the Monegasque driver insisted that such claims had ‘zero truth’ in them when quizzed on the topic last month. Vasseur has since offered a similar view by declaring in no uncertain terms that Leclerc will not be going anywhere for the foreseeable future, with the former Alfa Romeo driver still contracted to Ferrari until the end of 2024.
“The rumours about Charles and Mercedes are bulls***,” said Vasseur. “Charles said he loves Ferrari and wants to win with Ferrari. We are at the beginning of the season, where there is much gossip we will hear every weekend, but we are not worried.”
Vasseur’s defiant explanation comes after Mercedes team principal Wolff admitted that Leclerc is among the names being considered to join Mercedes at some point further down the line, with Hamilton firmly expected to remain with the Silver Arrows for at least a few more years in spite of the current uncertainty over his contract situation.
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“The only time I talked with him [Leclerc] is when we discussed where the gate is in Melbourne to board the plane,” revealed Wolff in Baku last weekend. “Charles is a super guy and, for the long-term future, someone you have to have on your radar but not for the short and medium term.
“Nobody doubts Charles’ ability and he is a good guy. He is 100 per cent committed to Ferrari and we are 100 per cent committed to putting pen to paper with Lewis.”
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Leclerc enjoyed his best result of the season in Baku with a third-placed finish after initially starting on pole but has struggled to impress at Ferrari over the course of the campaign to date. The historic Italian outfit already look to be out of Constructors’ Championship title contention, with Red Bull simply in league of their own at the front, and the situation appears to be frustrating Leclerc and Carlos Sainz behind the scenes as the struggles of their team continue to haunt them on a weekly basis.
It will once again be difficult for Ferrari to compete with the pace of Red Bull at this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez widely expected to battle it out for victory in the first of three races in the United States this year. Vasseur and Leclerc will be desperately hoping for Ferrari to get back to winning ways as a matter of priority, although only time will tell if they are capable of making enough progress to appease their drivers before the campaign draws to a close.
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