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Leclerc signs multi-year contract extension with Ferrari

Charles Leclerc Charles Leclerc - The Canadian Press

MARANELLO, Italy (AP) — Charles Leclerc signed a new multi-year contract with Ferrari on Thursday.

Leclerc has been part of the Italian team for eight years after joining its driver academy in 2016, although he made his Formula One debut with Sauber in 2018. He first raced for Ferrari the following year.

Ferrari has not revealed the length of Leclerc’s new contract.

“To race for this team has been my dream since I was three years old," Leclerc said.

“This team is my second family ever since I joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2016 and we have achieved a lot together, fighting through thick and thin over the past five years. However, I believe the best is yet to come and I can’t wait for this season to start, to make further progress and be competitive at every race.”

Leclerc claimed back-to-back wins in Belgium and Italy in his first season with Ferrari — becoming the youngest driver in the team’s history to win a grand prix when he triumphed at Spa-Francorchamps.

The 26-year-old Leclerc has since added three more race wins but Ferrari has struggled to keep pace with, first, Mercedes and then Red Bull.

Despite his team’s problems across an entire race, Leclerc has demonstrated his raw speed by amassing 23 pole positions. That puts him second on Ferrari’s list, level with Niki Lauda and behind only Michael Schumacher, who was on pole 58 times.

“We know him for his incessant desire to push himself to the limit and we appreciate his extraordinary abilities when it comes to fighting and overtaking in a race," team principal Fred Vasseur said. “We are determined to give Charles a winning car.”

Leclerc finished fifth in the drivers’ championship last season, 369 points behind Max Verstappen.

He was runner-up the previous season, albeit still 146 points behind Verstappen.

“My dream remains that of winning the world championship with Ferrari and I’m sure that we will enjoy great times and make our fans happy,” Leclerc said.