Charles Leclerc has extended his deal with Ferrari and will stay with the team until 2024, strengthening his position as its long-term leading driver.
Last season, Leclerc won two grands prix and beat his team-mate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the points during a stellar first year at Ferrari.
Leclerc, who had only competed in his rookie F1 season with Sauber before that move, has now inked a five-year committing him to the Maranello team well into the decade.
“Extremely happy to announce that I will be staying with Ferrari for five more years,” said Leclerc.
“I’m so grateful to be driving for such a team.
“I’ve learnt so much during this first year with the team and it is a great starting point to build a strong relationship for the years ahead.”
While Leclerc was widely considered to be the future of Ferrari, his new contract is more than just a formality.
It is an emphatic statement of intent from the team and a show of faith in the young driver, still only 22, at a time when Vettel is yet to decide his own future.
Vettel’s Ferrari contract expires at the end of 2020, although Ferrari has indicated it would continue with the same line-up if Vettel is competitive and wants to stay in F1.
Whatever Vettel chooses to do, Leclerc’s new contract puts the youngster in a commanding position.
He now knows his true worth to Ferrari, while any other driver considering a move to the team knows they would be entering an environment that is ever-more focused around Leclerc.
Ferrari would never publicly name Leclerc its number one driver, particularly when Vettel is still around and may yet continue.
However, the balance of power is shifting ever more towards the Monegasque.
“With each passing race this year, our wish to extend our contract with Charles became ever more self-evident,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto.
“I’m sure that together, we will write many new pages in the history of the Prancing Horse.”