Leclerc issues bizarre ‘not yet’ response to Mercedes talks

Charles Leclerc has been linked as a potential replacement for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

Charles Leclerc has been linked as a potential replacement for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

Charles Leclerc delivered a surprising “not yet” response when asked whether he had started talks with Mercedes.

Despite a year remaining on his contract with Ferrari beyond the current campaign, Leclerc has been heavily linked with a move to the Scuderia’s F1 rivals, potentially as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

It is anticipated the seven-time F1 champion will sign a new deal with Mercedes at some stage this season.

But while there is doubt, there follows speculation, with Leclerc only serving to fuel rumours ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Asked about the conjecture linking him to Mercedes and whether he had held any talks, Leclerc replied: “No, not yet. Not for the moment.

“For now, I am fully focused on the project I am today – which is Ferrari. I fully trust (the team) and I’m confident for the future, then we’ll see.”

As to whether it was at least an avenue he would like to explore, he added: “Again, I’m fully committed to Ferrari. And I love Ferrari.

“It’s always been a dream for me to be in this team, and my main priority is to win the world championship with the team. So no, it’s not something on my mind.”

Dismissing the suggestion of even a phone call from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, Leclerc said: “No. Zero”, before adding ruefully, “You (the media) all smile because you don’t believe me.”

Leclerc confident despite “disaster”

It has been a difficult start to the season for Leclerc and Ferrari in stark contrast to a year ago when he was riding high after the first three races of the season from which he had won two and was second in the other.

From the opening three grands prix of this season, Leclerc’s only points have come from a seventh-placed finish in Saudi Arabia which have sandwiched retirements in Bahrain and Australia.

Allied to the poor on-track performance, there is also upheaval behind the scenes, initially with Fred Vasseur replacing Mattia Binotto as team principal over the winter.

This week it was confirmed Laurent Mekies is to leave his role as sporting director and take over as team principal at AlphaTauri at the end of the season.

Dismissing the prospect of alarm bells ringing, Leclerc said: “Let’s be honest, if we are speaking on track, first of all, the performance is not where we want it to be in the first part of the season. The first three races for me were a disaster.

“But these (past) three weeks were good to reset, to look a little bit at the things where we can optimise the package that we have, that for now, it is what it is. And we’ve been working on that.

“Then off track, of course, there is a restructuring for the team and that’s clear.

“We had a really good relationship with Laurent. But within the team, we all understand this opportunity is right to take. It’s a really good opportunity for Laurent.

“But the team is more than one person, and I’m very confident for the future with Fred, knowing what he has in mind. I’m really confident.”

Leclerc insists he has received assurances from Vasseur, adding: “He has been open with what he wants to achieve and the way he wants to achieve it.

“This gives me confidence, probably more than ever. So as much as, obviously, things are moving, I’m confident for the future.”

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