Charles Leclerc said on Tuesday he knew about Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari talks before signing his own contract extension with the Italian Formula One team last month.
The sport’s oldest and most glamorous team announced on Jan. 25 that the 26-year-old Monaco driver had signed for several more seasons.
News of the arrival of seven-times world champion Hamilton from Mercedes in 2025, replacing Spaniard Carlos Sainz, was confirmed by both teams on Feb. 1 but came as no surprise to Leclerc.
“Obviously these kind of deals are not finalised overnight,” he told reporters at the launch of Ferrari’s 2024 car.
“It takes time and I was aware of those discussions before signing my deal, so it didn’t come out as a surprise after signing.”
Leclerc said he had not made any extra demands in his contract discussions.
“I think it was good that the team was transparent anyway, just for me not to learn it after that, but it didn’t change anything for me,” he added.
The Monegasque said Hamilton was obviously “an incredible driver, the most successful in history and with a lot of experience as well which he will bring to the team and myself, which is a good thing.
“But again, with Carlos it’s been great and we’ve got one more year together to try and do the best job possible.”
Leclerc also revealed that he and Hamilton had exchanged texts after Ferrari confirmed the move in a one-line statement.
“It is always interesting to have a new team mate as you learn different ways of working, of driving,” added Leclerc. “Even more so when my new team mate is a seven-times world champion.”
Sainz said he was made aware of the situation several weeks before the announcement, giving him time to “prepare and digest”.
“I think everyone was surprised in a way with what happened,” he said.
“From my side you can obviously understand that I got to know the news a bit earlier than anyone else but then I had some weeks to reflect, some weeks to prepare and some weeks to also get ready for the car launch, for the first race of the season.
“It gives you a bit of time to digest it and take your own conclusions and focus on the 2024 season.”
The season starts in Bahrain on March 2.