Is Charles Leclerc’s Lucrative Contract Designed To Buy His Silence?

Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc

Ferrari secured Charles Leclerc with an extended and financially rewarding contract to maintain discretion ahead of the revelation that Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari in 2025.

That is the belief of Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion and offspring of the legendary Ferrari driver Gilles, who believes the peculiar timing and announcement of Leclerc’s contract renewal now make perfect sense.

“Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in history,” Villeneuve told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “so before inviting him, the team signed a multi-year contract with Charles Leclerc to keep him quiet.

“Now we fully understand the reasons, and it was a good move,” he added.

Indeed, it is unusual for the Maranello-based team to be so coy about just how long a new multi-year contract is – as it now the case with Leclerc.

It is rumoured that his deal involves key exit clauses but also massive financial incentives to dutifully remain Hamilton’s teammate for as long as possible.

“We have a strategy of not communicating the details of the duration so as to not reveal it to the competition,” team boss Frederic Vasseur smiled when asked by Sky Italia. “That could only help them.”

Another rumour is that Leclerc was initially staunchly opposed to swapping out Carlos Sainz for seven time world champion Hamilton for 2025.

“He is an intelligent man,” Vasseur insists. “He very quickly understood what he could gain and learn from this type of collaboration. He sees it as an opportunity, as do we.

“I think he (Hamilton) can be a reference for the development of the team in the future,” the Frenchman added.

Precisely why Hamilton, 39, decided to trigger his own exit clause to escape his new 2024-2025 Mercedes contract, however, remains slightly unclear.

“I find it all quite strange,” Frans Verschuur, a former manager of Jos Verstappen, told the F1 Aan Tafel podcast. “He owes everything to Mercedes and could have stayed there until he turned grey.

“And then he goes to Ferrari, where in my opinion he won’t succeed. That would mean an inglorious end for him in Formula 1. Ferrari hasn’t won for a long time and then the big game starts in 2026, when the story will be very different yet again,” he added, referring to the looming rule changes.

More pressing in Villeneuve’s mind, however, is the clash between Hamilton and Leclerc.

“We are talking about a driver who has won seven titles and a driver who everyone calls a future champion, but who has not yet been able to prove that he can win the title,” said the Canadian. “There will be two opposing sides in Maranello, but for me it’s fun.

“If Lewis starts to show his best form again, it will be huge. He has nothing to lose,” Villeneuve insists. “Finishing your career gracefully at Ferrari is the best thing you can do.”

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