Driver Contracts Not a ‘Priority’, John Elkann States.

John Elkann has backed team boss Frederic Vasseur’s postponement of contract talks with the current Ferrari drivers.

After Vasseur said last week that it was still too soon to kick-start negotiations with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, Leclerc admitted in Austria that talks are in fact starting “gradually”.

Sainz is also keen to know what he will be doing beyond 2024.

“I’m not going to lie,” said the Spaniard. “I don’t like going into my last year of a contract without really knowing where I’m racing the next year.”

For Vasseur, however, the clear priority must be on improving the 2023 car and catching up with Red Bull’s dominance.

And, in Austria, a new front wing and floor resulted in Leclerc finishing second behind Max Verstappen – even though the runaway championship leader had enough time for an extra late pitstop to charge for the fastest race lap.

“The team has done an excellent job by bringing these upgrades earlier,” Leclerc said. “But obviously there’s still a lot of work to do because Max and Checo (Perez) had a lot of pace.”

Ferrari presidents do not often attend grands prix, but John Elkann was trackside at the Red Bull Ring to witness the success of the latest upgrade.

“We are all very happy to have seen Ferrari battling against Red Bull on a very demanding circuit,” he told Sky Italia.

“On the positive side of things is the progress of the car and the quality of the drivers we have. The important thing is to see this progress, but let’s take it one step at a time.

“This is not the time to get discouraged,” Elkann added. “In Austria, we finally saw what we hoped for – a Ferrari that is moving in one direction.”

However, he acknowledged that Red Bull and Verstappen remain a long way ahead.

“But it’s good to have this incentive to do better – and it’s always been like this for Ferrari,” said Elkann.

As for Leclerc and Sainz pushing for contract talks, however, the Ferrari president said he agrees with Vasseur.

“There are other priorities to focus on,” he insisted. “For now, we have to enjoy this moment which is thanks also to the talent of the drivers we have.”