q Charles Leclerc: Contract talks with Ferrari 'gradually' beginning now. - Bayla Sports F1

Charles Leclerc: Contract talks with Ferrari ‘gradually’ beginning now.

Charles Leclerc has revealed that contract talks with Ferrari are now in their early stages.

Team boss Frederic Vasseur said mere days ago that talks with his drivers will not begin until at least later in the summer, because with 18 months to go, it would only be a “distraction” now.

However, Leclerc admits talks have actually begun: “Yes, we are gradually starting to talk about my contract,” Italian media quotes him as saying.

“There’s still time and it’s not in my thoughts yet, but we talk about it here and there without anything specific.”

When asked what he means by not getting “specific”, Leclerc added: “It means exactly what I said. No specifics yet. No deadlines, nothing.

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“I love Ferrari,” he insisted, “I like to be in this team and I’m not looking for other options. Ferrari helped me get to where I am today.

“Of course, for now the team and I are unhappy with our form, but I think we are moving in the right direction.”

Indeed, recent updates have begun to move the Maranello-based outfit closer to the front – and there is a new floor and front wing on the car in Austria.

But that hasn’t stopped recent rumblings that the 25-year-old Monegasque has not ruled out a switch to Mercedes.

“It’s probably the first time in my career where I was in this position,” Leclerc explained on Thursday. “All the decisions that I made before were pretty simple – I moved from Sauber to Ferrari, signing a multi-year contract.

“Now the situation is somewhat different, but I don’t really think about it yet. I am focused on driving and I want to win the title with Ferrari as soon as possible. And then we’ll see.”

Leclerc has often let his frustration with Ferrari’s situation show in 2023, but Dr Helmut Marko said he thinks the red cars were actually faster than the Red Bulls in Canada.

“The speed in Canada was good, and what Dr Marko said was nice, but I don’t believe him,” Leclerc smiled. “We are still a long way from what we want to show.”

Therefore, he said he is “certainly not” dreaming of beating the Red Bulls this weekend.

“The gap to Red Bull is too big for that,” said Leclerc.