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BAKU, Azerbaijan — Charles Leclerc has denied reports he has held preliminary talks with Mercedes about the possibility of switching teams if Lewis Hamilton decides to retire at the end of the season.

A report in the Italian publication Quotidiano Nazionale said it was “an open secret” that Leclerc was in talks with Mercedes after Ferrari’s difficult start to the season.

But Leclerc, who holds a contract with Ferrari until the end of 2024, said no talks had taken place.

“No, not yet,” he said ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. “Not for the moment.

“For now, I am fully focused on the project I am in today, which is Ferrari and I fully trust and am confident for the future. Then we will see, but I am fully confident for the project of Ferrari.”

Hamilton is out of contract at the end of 2023 and is yet to sign an extension, although he and Wolff have started negotiations and have both said their desire is to continue together.

Asked directly if he had spoken to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff about a drive, Leclerc said: “No. Zero. Zero. Really zero. You all smile because you don’t believe me, but I promise.”

Pushed further on whether he would consider a switch to Mercedes, Leclerc added: “Again, I’m fully committed to Ferrari and I love Ferrari.

“It has always been a dream for me to be in this team and my main priority is to win a world championship with this team. So it’s not something in my mind.”

In a press conference several hours later, Hamilton was asked whether the rumours had any impact on his future.

“No, not really,” he replied, “I think some of the drivers have relationships with team bosses and stuff.

“I like where I am, I love my team and I’m grateful for the journey we’ve been on and what we’re working on. It doesn’t have any impact, no.”

The rumours come during a difficult period for Ferrari as the team lies fourth in the constructors’ standings, 97 points off leaders Red Bull, after three races.

On Wednesday it was confirmed that the team’s racing director Laurent Mekies will leave the team to join AlphaTauri as team principal at the start of 2024. The news follows the departure of head of vehicle concept David Sanchez, who is due to join McLaren next year.

Asked if the departures had sounded any alarm bells in Leclerc’s mind, especially in light of the on-track performance this year, he said: “If we are speaking on track, first of all the performance is not where we want it to be in the first half of the season.

“The first three races for me were a disaster, but these three weeks [off] I think was good to reset to look a little bit at the things where we can optimise the package that we have — for now it is what it is, but we have been working on that.

“And then off-track, of course, there is restriction for the team and that’s clear. We had a really good relationship with Laurent, but we all understand in the team that this opportunity is right to take.

“It’s a really good opportunity for Laurent, so it’s like this. But the team is more than one person and I am very confident for the future with Fred [Vasseur, team principal] having what he has in mind, I’m really confident.”

Leclerc said Vasseur had offered him reassurances about the team’s future competitiveness.

“Yes, I think he has been open with what he wants to achieve and the way he wants to achieve it,” Leclerc said. “This gives me the confidence more than ever. As much as obviously it’s moving, I’m confident for the future.”

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Charles Leclerc reiterates faith in Ferrari amid rumours of Mercedes talks