Formula 1

Ferrari's Leclerc deal vagueness points to a wider F1 letdown

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

The world of Formula 1 got its biggest driver contract news of 2024 yet with the announcement of Charles Leclerc's long-anticipated-but-still-newsworthy Ferrari contract extension until twenty-twenty-uhmm... yeah.

Let's try this again. Charles Leclerc has finally committed his post-2024 future to Ferrari with a multi-year deal, with 'multi-year' meaning anything from two to infinite. He also specifically said that he would be driving for "several more seasons", 'several' being a word that usually falls in the three-to-five range.

Stake

It's all a bit silly, right?

This is not in any way, shape or form a callout for Ferrari or Leclerc. Ferrari is well within its right to keep details of the new contract - originally understood to run until the end of 2029 - private from everyone but F1's Contract Recognition Board and the taxman, and its preference for a vaguer timeline may well be connected to the kind of break clauses that probably exist in every long-term F1 deal.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, F1

It's certainly not the first team to feel that an exact end point is not required to be stipulated, and it won't be the last. And in a way that's also an obviously very silly thing to complain about, especially coming from a media member - 'pretty please give us more information on this new contract you've agreed to make our jobs easier'.

But I do believe, strongly, that this is an area where more transparency would only help make F1, especially in its current growing, new-fan-attracting state, more fun and engaging for those who tune in.

Most sports and leagues that position themselves on that same mainstream-consumption, international-relevance level as F1 does... well, they just don't hide details like these. A lot of them are very forthcoming about not just the lengths of deals but the specific financial amounts in play.

For example, it doesn't take long at all to find out via a Google search that, say, American football player Patrick Mahomes (pictured below) stands to earn $16.6million in base salary from the Kansas City Chiefs next year (with bonuses taking him to almost quadruple that), and that he's contracted through 2031. That information is available for every single one of his NFL peers, and it is available from more or less the moment they sign their deals.

Patrick Mahomes and Red Bull F1 car

Now, the NFL is a salary cap league, as is the NBA, so this kind of thing has to be made public. F1 has so far rejected any moves towards a driver salary cap, so there's no real reason for salaries to be disclosed besides curiosity, and not too strong an argument to be made.

But contract lengths? Why not?

And specifics of exit clauses? Again, why not?

It's not like F1 doesn't speculate on those things anyway - remember all that 'Sergio Perez can be dropped if he isn't second in 2023' chat? - and it's not like having them out in the open significantly adds to the pressure.

It would be really nice for F1 fans to know things like, say, what the actual contractual situation is between Lando Norris and McLaren if Red Bull does come knocking, or what determines the '+1' on Fernando Alonso's apparent '2+1' Aston deal, or what distant future year Lance Stroll's contract runs to.

And having more things like that out in the open would just be generally good from a driver labour perspective. Knowing for sure - and having it as a matter of public record in a sport not immune to the pressures of public opinion - what the clauses are, who's on the market, which teams give drivers flexibility and which load up contracts with team-side options... all of that is a theoretical net positive for the employees in the cars.

F1's in rude health, and its individual teams are, too. We have largely moved away from pay drivers and the 'you stay as long as you bring the money' type of deals that F1 teams would understandably dislike to publicise.

But clearly they won't publicise interesting contract details anyway - even if it's a deal like Leclerc's that is outwardly an obvious win for Ferrari.

Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari, F1

F1 would have to make teams be more open. All that would accomplish is enhance the conversation and reward the die-hards by lifting the curtain.

Yes, it would do so in the most minute of ways - but F1 fans have no shortage of appreciation for minutiae.

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