Charles Leclerc signs new Ferrari contract after 'dream' year in F1
Monegasque signs new deal through to 2024 having finished 24 points ahead of four-time world champion teammate Vettel in the drivers' standings
Charles Leclerc has signed a new long-term contract with the Ferrari Formula 1 team through to the end of the 2024 season.
Ferrari Academy driver Leclerc joined the Scuderia at the start of last season, after a year plying his trade with Sauber, on a deal believed to be to the end of the 2021 season.
But following a successful maiden campaign with Ferrari after succeeding former F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, he has been rewarded with a new and improved contract.
A delighted Leclerc said: "I am very happy to be staying on with Scuderia Ferrari. This past season, driving for the most illustrious team in Formula 1, has been a dream year for me.
"I cannot wait to enjoy an even deeper relationship with the team after what has been an intense and exciting 2019. I'm keen to see what the future holds and I can't wait to get going again next season."
Leclerc went into 2019 as teammate to Sebastian Vettel, who was given No 1 status by team principal Mattia Binotto due to his experience as a four-time champion and after four years with Ferrari.
But Leclerc quickly established himself, claiming two race wins - At Belgium and Italy - and seven pole positions to the one victory and two poles for Vettel, and finishing 24 points ahead of the 32-year-old German in the drivers' standings.
With the new deal, Ferrari are making clear they see 22-year-old Monegasque Leclerc as their long-term future, compared to Vettel whose current deal expires at the end of 2020.
Binotto has no doubt that with Leclerc, Ferrari will again be successful as it will be 13 years next term since their last drivers' champion, and 12 since they last won the constructors' championship.
Binotto said: "With each passing race this year, our wish to extend our contract with Charles became ever more self-evident and the decision means he will now be with us for the next five seasons. It demonstrates that Charles and the Scuderia have a firm future together.
"Charles has been part of our family since 2016 and we are more than proud of the results we are achieving with our Academy.
"We are therefore very pleased to be able to announce that he will be with us for many years to come and I'm sure that together, we will write many new pages in the history of the Prancing Horse."
Leclerc established himself as the leading Ferrari driver throughout the season, and his partnership with Vettel became one of the focal points of the year.
The most recent example of the tension between them was in the Brazilian Grand Prix, where contact led to both retiring.
The Italian team have been linked with a stunning move for six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, whose current £40 million-a-year (Dh191m) Mercedes deal expires at the end of next season.
Hamilton, 34, refused to deny a report at the final race in Abu Dhabi this month that he has already met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann.
Earlier this month, the Italian's chief executive Louis Camilleri revealed that preliminary discussions over a move for the 2021 season have taken place.
Hamilton, 34, refused to deny a report at the final race in Abu Dhabi that he has already met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann.
And this month, the Italian's chief executive Louis Camilleri revealed that preliminary discussions over a move for the 2021 season have taken place.
The 22-race 2020 F1 season kicks off on March 15 at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and concludes at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 29.
Updated: January 2, 2020 05:38 AM