A statement of intent
Five-year deals are not commonplace in Formula 1, albeit with the usual caveat that there will likely be clauses on both sides, for Ferrari’s last five-year contract was with Fernando Alonso. They split after the third of those five years, in 2014. Nonetheless Lewis Hamilton had one with McLaren, ditto Daniel Ricciardo with Red Bull, as well as Valtteri Bottas with Williams. Most Formula 1 contracts are one-plus-ones. This ties down one of the most promising youngsters with Formula 1’s most fabled – albeit stuttering – operations until the middle of the new decade. Leclerc became one of Ferrari’s youngest racers when he stepped up for 2019 and his performances earmarked him out as the team’s future prospect, fully justifying the team’s faith in his ability. Leclerc’s previous contract ran through 2022 but this one now runs through 2024, giving him that additional element of stability and a heftier bank balance to boot. In just three years he has gone from a rising star of Ferrari’s Academy to its anointed future champion. Ferrari could have waited months, or even another year, before renewing with Leclerc until as long as 2024. That it didn’t, and has started the gun already, creates an inevitable talking point or two…
Vettel’s contract expires at the end of the 2020 season
What now for Vettel?
The blockbuster option
Would it happen? Could it happen? The notion of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen together at Mercedes has been sought after by fans, but what about ostensibly the second-best option? Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari? In Abu Dhabi, and in the few press conferences held since, a merry-go-round of Hamilton, Toto Wolff and Ferrari chiefs have not dismissed the chances of a Hamilton/Ferrari partnership from 2021. It suits all parties to keep the option open, gives them leverage elsewhere, and also keeps Formula 1 in the spotlight. In reality Leclerc extending through 2024 changes little here. He was always going to stay until 2022, meaning that any Hamilton-Ferrari deal would have resulted in a Leclerc pairing at Vettel’s expense. Hamilton in red remains a tantalising prospect and neither side has dismissed it as a possibility just yet. But it is still highly unlikely.
Could Giovinazzi be the ‘Massa option’?
Maybe a safe pair of hands?
Keeping track of the next ‘next generation’
It has not escaped the attention of Formula 1 observers that Ferrari has created a captivating dynamic in Formula 2. It has paired together the previous two Formula 3 champions in Mick Schumacher and Robert Shwartzman, with Schumacher embarking on his sophomore campaign and Shwartzman poised for his rookie season. The duo were previously team-mates at Prema in 2018 but for next year the pressure will be mounted on account of 2021 hopes. Schumacher’s name brings enormous marketing potential – as witnessed by the frenzy around him early in 2019 amid his Formula 1 outings – but his Formula 2 rookie season flattered to deceive. Schumacher cannot lose to Shwartzman in 2020 and still be regarded as a Formula 1 prospect. Ferrari also has 2019 Formula 3 runner-up Marcus Armstrong at the front-running ART Grand Prix squad, Callum Ilott at the crack UNI Virtuosi squad, and Giuliano Alesi at HWA Racelab. Ferrari’s Driver Academy delivered the late Jules Bianchi to Formula 1, followed by his godson Leclerc, and the next generation of its talent line are now on the fringes. A direct promotion from Formula 2 to Ferrari is unthinkable but anyone standout in 2020 will provide food for thought for 2022 anyway.
Bottas has been with Mercedes since 2017
The left-field option
Source: Motorsport Week
More from my site
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren Formula One team in negotiations for 2015 seat
- Lewis Hamilton takes championship lead with Spanish Grand Prix win
- Hamilton wins Chinese GP ahead of Vettel, Verstappen
- Sebastian Vettel beats Valtteri Bottas to win in Brazil
- F1 Belgian Grand Prix: Rosberg beats Hamilton to pole at wet Spa
- Rosberg doesn’t see Ferrari as a Formula One threat