Formula 1 business expert Mark Gallagher believes a switch to Audi would be a “step down” for Charles Leclerc, who’s been urged to stick with Ferrari.
Leclerc’s current deal at Ferrari is due to expire at the end of 2024 and whilst he’s reportedly in talks over an extension, several other teams have been linked to the Monegasque this season.
The 25-year-old has been linked to Red Bull, Mercedes, Aston Martin and now even Audi-Sauber.
Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz has also been rumoured to an Audi switch, yet Gallagher doesn’t see why Leclerc would be interested in such a thing.
Gallagher believes Leclerc would only consider Audi for a “big paycheck”, given that it’d presumably be a “step down” in regard to how competitive his car would be.
“You look at Charles Leclerc in relation to Ferrari and you look at what the alternatives are. He could definitely go and earn a great deal of money driving elsewhere – and with the likes of Audi coming in, he could take a big paycheck,” Gallagher said on the GP Racing Magazine podcast.
“But I think for Charles to go from Ferrari to Audi would be a little bit like Eddie Irvine going from Ferrari to Jaguar. It’s just a pension. It would be a step down for him.”
The issue for Leclerc in Gallagher’s eyes, is that he’s not “proven himself” as a leader at Ferrari.
Since Sebastian Vettel left the Italians at the end of 2020, Ferrari haven’t really made any huge steps forward whilst Leclerc’s been their number one driver, with the brief exception of 2022.
With this in mind, Gallagher doesn’t understand what role Leclerc would play at developing a new Audi team, who arguably require leadership and experience to help them catch up.
“He hasn’t proven himself to be able to develop Ferrari and that’s a long-established team – so what’s the opportunity for him to develop what will effectively be a new team under Audi?” Gallagher questioned.
“Whether you’re talking Ferrari or whether you’re talking Audi, it’s actually all a similar story about getting structures and people and processes in place that deliver success for you.
“Ferrari don’t have that in place at the present time and Charles Leclerc, unfortunately, is being dragged down in the vortex of that and he is, by all accounts, not the man to turn it around.
“Very quick racing driver, but he’s not yet a leader of a team. And at the age of 25, if he hasn’t [already] developed those characteristics he’s probably never going to.”