Ferrari ‘naive’ over driver contract talks

Carlos Sainz hit the headlines this week claiming he refused to go into the last year of his Ferrari F1 contract with an uncertain future. The Spanish driver identified this ‘winter’ as the cut off point from whereon he would be open to exploring other ‘options’.

Both Charles Leclerc and Sainz will be out of contract at the end of 2024 with the Monegasque being strongly linked to replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.



Ferrari drivers linked with moves

Sainz has been linked with the future Sauber/Audi partnership though for now denies any talks between the parties have taken place.

Hamilton holds the key to the future of the driver market for the frontline teams and the exact terms of his new deal with Mercedes, expected to be announced in Silverstone, may significantly influence the future of at least one Ferrari driver.

When asked ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix what Ferrari were doing to protect themselves from the possibility of losing both their drivers to other teams, new team boss Fred Vasseur was dismissive of the notion this was problematic.

Ferrari have taken a huge step backwards this year from being the team pushing Red Bull hard during the opening half of the season, to one now finding it difficult to guarantee both their cars start inside the stop ten.

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Vasseur delays contract renewal talks

The SF-23 has been a handful for both Sainz and Leclerc and appears to be widely inconsistent from track to track and where the temperature variations are large.

Following Sainz’s quasi ultimatum to the Scuderia this week, Vasseur was questioned as to why contract renewal conversations with the Spaniard were delayed.

“There are 18 months to go until the deadline, the same goes for Charles,” replied a sanguine Vasseur.

“Right now introducing the renewal topic would be a distraction, I told their managers a couple of weeks ago.

“The priority is for pilots to work together to develop the machine. Then during the summer, or later, we’ll start talking about it.”



Hamilton contract terms crucial

Of course given potential opportunities at Mercedes were Hamilton to get just a one year contract, Ferrari are taking a risk of one or both of their drivers walking away.

For the Scuderia to be searching for two new drivers at the same time would be highly unusual though given they at present are just the fourth best team on the grid, the more promising F1 talent will prefer to be at Red Bull, Mercedes or Aston Martin.

Vasseur recognises the risk Ferrari are taking yet still wears an air of confidence that both his drivers are committed to the renewal project taking place in Maranello.

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“That risk is always there. They are both attracted to the project, they want to stay and win. But we have to think like a team and mature in every area.

“Talking only about drivers today would be wrong for the steps forward we have to take as a team.”

Ferrari appeared to make a big step forward in Canada matching the race pace of Red Bull both in practice and during the race. The problem for Sainz and Leclerc was their poor qualifying positions in Montreal meant it was night on impossible for either to make their way through to the podium.

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Ferrari uphill struggle

Vasseur is risking it all on the fact the SF-23 will perform better form this weekend onwards and believes this is the way to persuade Charles Lecerlc in particular to stay with the team.

“The best way is to give him a competitive car. He knows that every season is crucial to his career. He has one goal: to become a world champion.

“And winning the title is also our goal. You have to make both he and Carlos feel at the centre of the project.”

However, talk is cheap and with Aston Martin and Mercedes also targeting a championship win next year its un uphill task for the Frenchman to persuade his drivers better times are soon to come.

READ MORE: Hamilton calls for FIA “equalisation mechanism’

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