Earlier this year, Charles Leclerc had been tipped to sign for Ferrari in place of Kimi Raikkonen. But now, it has emerged that he is a leading contender to race for Haas in 2019. Raikkonen is expected to sign a contract extension with Ferrari in the meantime.
Alfa Romeo Sauber’s Charles Leclerc is in his first season as a full-time Formula 1 driver following two seasons of test driving for Formula 1 teams. The 20-year-old Monegasque test drove for Scuderia Ferrari and the Ferrari-powered Haas team in the 2016 season, and he test drove for Ferrari and the Ferrari-powered Sauber team last season.
In 2016, Leclerc won the GP3 Series championship, and last year, he won the Formula 2 championship. Through the first 12 races of his first Formula 1 season, he has been on a blistering pace by Sauber standards. He has racked up five top 10 finishes and 13 points, and he currently sits in 15th place in the driver standings.
While it was widely believed that Leclerc would replace 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari starting next season after it was revealed in June that Ferrari were ready to replace the 38-year-old Finn with Leclerc before it was even revealed later in the month that Leclerc and Ferrari had reached an agreement that had not yet been signed, this does not look like it will be the case now.
Former Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne was a big fan of the Monegasque driver and wanted to make him a teammate to four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel as soon as possible.
But with Marchionne’s sudden death, Ferrari have been forced to rethink their driver strategy, and as a result of that, it is believed that they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with Raikkonen that is set to be announced on the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix, which is Ferrari’s home race. This race is scheduled to be contested on Sunday, September 2.
If this move ends up being confirmed, it would mean that Leclerc would not be able to drive for Ferrari until at least the 2021 season. With him outperforming teammate Marcus Ericsson on a regular basis, it would be unlikely that he would return to Sauber for another season, so he would likely move to Haas, the only other Ferrari-powered team on the grid aside of Ferrari and Sauber.
Haas did not sign Leclerc for the 2017 season, as they wanted experienced drivers to fill their lineup. But Leclerc has proven in his rookie season that he is more than capable of pulling his weight, if not more, if given the opportunity to sign with Formula 1’s lone American team.