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What F1's 'long-term' contracts tell us about drivers

Both Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc announced they would be staying with their respective teams, but neither specified any specific length for their contracts. To understand why, you can look towards a famous football manager that has just cut short his contract.

Hamilton Norris Leclerc
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To news overview © XPBimages

If you look closely at the contract extension announcements of Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, you will notice both make reference to an unspecified "long-term" or "multi-year" deal.

Speculation will lead you to believe that their contracts run through until at least the end of 2026 - with Leclerc's up to 2029 - but the language used by both parties signifies something else.

In the case of Leclerc and Norris, they are both the 'driver academy' talents Ferrari and McLaren have invested in over the years to get them to this point in their careers.

To understand their commitments amid speculation over whether they might join a rival team and if their current teams can sustain their momentum, one can look towards Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool football club.

Knowing when the time is right

When Klopp signed his last contract extension with the team in 2022, it was a four year deal which would last up until 2026 which he fully intended to see through.

Such was his trust in his relationship with owners Fenway Sports Group, part of their negotiation was an open dialogue whereby Klopp would be honest enough to say when the time to leave was right - independent of their deal.

The 'long-term' element gives both parties breathing space without media, fans or internal team members putting a timer on any future discussions over their commitments.

Given that the so-called 'silly season' can often dominate headlines, it would make sense that both Leclerc and Norris would want to shut out this speculation as they look to get the job done ahead of a major regulation change.

CURRENT LONGEST TEAM AND DRIVER PARTNERSHIPS IN F1

Driver Team Years
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 12th season
Max Verstappen Red Bull 9th season
Kevin Magnussen Haas 7th season
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 6th season
Lando Norris McLaren 6th season
Lance Stroll Aston Martin 6th season

Trust and confidence

When Formula 1 enters a new regulation cycle it is seen as an opportunity to disrupt the pecking order. This has previously been aimed at clipping the wings of teams that have spent a lot and got a concept right, but now in the days of cost caps and aero testing restrictions the idea of 'convergence' is far easier to comprehend.

Red Bull's advantage from the 2022 season won't last forever, and the stability of the regulations coupled with restrictions on car development for 2026 gives drivers and teams confidence they can catch up.

Although Norris has yet to win a race, there is no doubt that with McLaren's upgraded facilities and restructured technical team they will get into a position to fight for wins and titles again after their last came in 2008 with Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari is works outfit and while they have not won a title in as many years as McLaren, they have consistently been - to use a sporting term - 'there or thereabouts' for Leclerc to have confidence in their ability to produce a car that can go beyond the odd race win and podiums.

If either fail to deliver on their promise for whatever reason, there is enough trust between team and driver to consider a change in direction or other options.

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