Leclerc’s golden gag: The secret behind his new Ferrari contract

In an intriguing twist to Formula 1’s tumultuous driver market, Jacques Villeneuve sheds light on Ferrari’s strategic move to secure Charles Leclerc’s silence with a lucrative contract extension, ahead of announcing Lewis Hamilton’s bombshell transfer for 2025.

Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion with a lineage deeply entwined in Ferrari’s history through his father Gilles, believes the timing and nature of Leclerc’s new deal were deliberately orchestrated. “Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in history,” Villeneuve explained to 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.”

The details of Leclerc’s contract, notably its duration and specific clauses, remain shrouded in secrecy, a tactic Ferrari’s team boss Frederic Vasseur seems to relish. “We have a strategy of not communicating the details of the duration so as to not reveal it to the competition,” Vasseur told Sky Italia with a knowing smile, hinting at the strategic advantage such secrecy provides.

Rumors suggest Leclerc’s contract includes significant financial perks and exit clauses, ensuring his cooperation as Hamilton’s teammate. Initially, Leclerc appeared resistant to replacing Carlos Sainz with Hamilton, a seven-time world champion. However, Vasseur asserts, “He is an intelligent man. He very quickly understood what he could gain and learn from this type of collaboration. He sees it as an opportunity, as do we.”

Hamilton’s decision to activate an exit clause from his Mercedes contract, leaving the team that has been his Formula 1 home and where he achieved the bulk of his success, has sparked speculation and skepticism. Frans Verschuur, a notable figure in the F1 community and close to the Verstappen camp, expressed his bewilderment: “I find it all quite strange. He owes everything to Mercedes and could have stayed there until he turned grey.”

The impending partnership between Hamilton and Leclerc at Ferrari is poised to be a focal point of the F1 narrative, pitting a seasoned champion against a contender many view as a future title-holder. Villeneuve anticipates a riveting dynamic within the team: “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. There will be two opposing sides in Maranello, but for me it’s fun.”

Villeneuve concludes with a perspective on Hamilton’s bold move, suggesting that, for a driver of his stature, Ferrari represents the ultimate finale: “If Lewis starts to show his best form again, it will be huge. He has nothing to lose. Finishing your career gracefully at Ferrari is the best thing you can do.”

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