In an early Christmas gift for Ferrari fans it was announced this morning that Charles Leclerc had signed a new five year contract with the team, extending beyond his original deal which ran to the end of 2021. It’s great news for both the team and the young driver as they look to build on a very promising 2019 season, however what does this deal mean for the future of Sebastian Vettel?
Vettel joined the Scuderria as a four time world champion with aspirations of claiming his fifth title with Ferrari, but things haven’t quite gone to plan for the German following his switch from Red Bull. He came closest during the 2018 season and may well have gone on to provide a tougher challenge for Hamilton if not for his mistake at Hockenheim.
Things changed in 2019 however, despite going into the season as the team’s clear number one driver, the dynamic seemed to shift as the season progressed. Charles Leclerc hit the ground running, impressing not just the team but everyone in the wider world of Formula One. The youngster would go on to beat Vettel across pretty much every front over the course of the season.
Leclerc would finish one position above his teammate in the driver’s championship by 24 points, almost the equivalent of one race win. He would score more race wins (2 – 1) and more pole positions (7 – 2), Leclrec would also record a higher average finishing position (4.21 – 5.11). It was a dismal season for Vettel.
All of this means he has to bounce back next year and prove why the team backed him as their number one driver coming into 2019, because this contract extension for Leclrec signals a changing of the guard. team principal Mattia Binotto has already discussed the difficulty in 2019 of managing the two drivers.
Vettel’s current deal runs to the end of 2020 and you would think that Ferrari would be keen to extend that, given the new deal for Leclerc, whose contract still had another three years to run.
It seems as though Ferrari wish to keep their options open with Vettel, as they keep one eye on the situation with Lewis Hamilton. However they may also be painfully aware that Vettel doesn’t seem to enjoy having a teammate that can provide a significant challenge to his number one role.
This new deal for Leclrec could very well spell the end of Vettel’s time at Ferrari, as what was once the future now becomes the present and what was the present, now becomes the past.