As driver announcements go, the news earlier this week that Charles Leclerc had signed a contract extension with Ferrari for “several more seasons” was hardly a blockbuster one.Ferrari before he stepped into the cockpit of an F1 car for the first time. As a Ferrari Driver Academy member, Leclerc was very much a project for the Maranello team, which nurtured him through Formula 2 and helped secure him a debut season with Sauber in 2018.
Having demonstrated his potential was real in his rookie season, Ferrari called him up to race for the Scuderia alongside Sebastian Vettel for 2019. For the next five seasons, Leclerc has been Ferrari’s most successful driver, taking five grand prix victories, 23 pole positions, 30 podium finishes and securing second place in the drivers’ championship in 2022 – after leading the standings in the early rounds.
But despite his success, Leclerc’s time with Ferrari has been defined by frustration and disappointment. After a strong first year in scarlet for Leclerc in 2019, Ferrari suffered two win-less seasons in 2020 and 2021 in the aftermath of a power unit controversy that cost the team a significant level of performance relative to what they had enjoyed previously.
When Ferrari became a winning team again with the major technical regulations changes for 2022, their title challenge buckled over the year with poor strategy calls, mistakes from Leclerc himself and the simply unstoppable performance of Red Bull.
Unlike team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr, Leclerc also went without a win last season. But in a year where Sainz was the only driver to win a grand prix while not in a Red Bull, Leclerc’s failure to win speaks more to the dominance of Red Bull than anything else.
Leclerc has staked his future on Ferrari and team principal Frederic Vasseur’s vision for the Prancing Horse by signing a contract extension – though for exactly how long is not clear. But will they achieve their dream of a world championship title together?
Leclerc has already proven that he has the potential to fight for world championship titles. His incredible pole position record demonstrates his outright speed, while his relative lack of wins only shows that Ferrari’s weakness has been in their race pace in recent years.
He has experience leading the championship and has shown he is capable of not just fighting toe-to-toe with Max Verstappen, but actually beating him too. Although he has been beaten by team mate Sainz many times in their three years together, Leclerc has been the Ferrari who has finished ahead more often than not.
With Ferrari’s resources and under the calm, measured leadership of Vasseur, it’s likely Ferrari will challenge for a title eventually – and Leclerc is the one best placed to lead that charge.
No one would deny that Leclerc is one of the best talents in a field filled with incredibly gifted drivers. However, there’s no reason to assume that Leclerc will be able to compete for a title in his upcoming years as a Ferrari driver, let alone win one.
Leclerc is entirely dependent on his team producing a car capable of winning a championship – something they have been unable to do for almost twenty years now. Even though Vasseur has steadied the ship since taking over, the team dropped one place in the constructors’ championship last year to rivals Mercedes.
And even if Ferrari improve, there is still the difficult reality that Red Bull and Verstappen must lose ground if Ferrari have a chance of catching them. And with Mercedes looking to right the wrongs of the last two seasons, the mountain may just be a little too high for Ferrari and Leclerc to climb.
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There’s no doubt that Leclerc remains one of the best drivers on the current grid and deserves an opportunity to fight for a title with a car capable of doing so. But in the age of Red Bull, it’s just not as simple as that.
First of all, Ferrari need to build a car capable of fighting for regular wins. Then, it needs to maintain that level over the course of a whole season. That is something the team have not been capable of for many years.
Last year Ferrari avoided repeating the worst of their 2022 blunders. But there’s still the matter of the budget cap limiting resources and allowing smaller teams to have a better chance of competing. More competition means a bigger challenge to win a championship, and the likes of Mercedes will likely not stay out of contention forever.
Finally, there is the matter of the major power unit changes for 2026. While that offers a great opportunity for a factory manufacturer like Ferrari to steal a jump on their rivals, there’s also just as much chance that the team could get their new design wrong and be left playing catch up over many years. By which point Leclerc may seek greener pastures.
So will Leclerc win a championship with Ferrari? Ultimately, it’s hard to envision Ferrari never making it back to the front of the field, but whether Leclerc will be the one to get them there may depend on how long he commits to the team he describes as his ‘family’. If he remains with the Scuderia for the next decade, it seems possible. But will he win a title in the next few years? Unlike when he inked his last five-year deal, Ferrari has not disclosed exactly how long his new contract is for, making it difficult at this stage to bet on his championship dream coming true at this team.
Do you think Charles Leclerc will one day win the world championship racing with Ferrari? Vote in our poll and have your say in the comments below.
Will Charles Leclerc ever win the F1 world championship driving for Ferrari?
- Yes (35%)
- No (65%)
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