Mercedes 'difficult to catch' – Leclerc

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc has admitted Ferrari are unlikely to catch Mercedes and make a fight of the championship before the end of the season.

Mercedes have won all eight races this season and Ferrari have so far failed in their attempts to close the performance gap between the two cars.

“We will believe it until the end, of course,” said Ferrari driver Leclerc. “We are all aware the gap is quite big.

“It’ll be difficult to catch up, but we won’t give up until it’s not possible.”

Ferrari’s car is on average nearly 0.4 seconds a lap slower than the Mercedes in qualifying and the team have only had two clear-cut chances to win races this season.

In Bahrain, Leclerc was on course for a dominant victory before his engine hit trouble in the closing laps and he dropped to third.

In Canada, his team-mate Sebastian Vettel was leading Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton only to make a mistake, run off track and then receive a five-second penalty for dangerous driving against Hamilton when he rejoined.

Apart from Azerbaijan, where Leclerc looked a strong favourite for pole before crashing in qualifying, Ferrari have lagged behind Mercedes at every race.

Leclerc said he did not expect to be able to challenge Hamilton and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas this weekend in Austria, even though the track layout rewards engine power, the only area where Ferrari lead the field.

Asked if Ferrari could take on Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring, Leclerc said: “Oof. I think at the moment it is quite difficult. They seem very, very quick.

“They were extremely quick in Paul Ricard [last weekend]. We are focusing on ourselves trying to do the best job possible. But to be honest it is quite difficult to be at their level.

“If they don’t run into issues, it is troubling for us to challenge them.”

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Ferrari took some new parts to the French Grand Prix last weekend in an attempt to close the gap to Mercedes but they had mixed results.

A new front and rear wing and brake ducts were left on the car, but a new floor was taken off.

Team boss Mattia Binotto said: “We are happy to be getting back on track so quickly, because it’s the best way to put ourselves to the test again to try and understand the elements that did not go according to plan in France.

“We have various test items to evaluate, mainly in order to give us a clearer picture as to why some of the updates we brought to Le Castellet did not work as expected.”

In other developments, teams are meeting with governing body the FIA and tyre supplier Pirelli on Friday morning to discuss a proposal led by Red Bull to revert to last year’s tyre design.

Thinner-gauge tyres were introduced for 2019 in an attempt to reduce their propensity for overheating, but Red Bull and others believe that this has favoured Mercedes, who in the past have been one of the teams that most struggled with keeping tyre temperatures under control.

By contrast, many teams this season have struggled to get the new tyres up to the right temperature window for them to work properly.

Seven of the 10 teams would need to agree for a change to come in mid-season – most likely after the summer break, which comes in August after the next four races in Austria, Britain, Germany and Hungary.

Austrian Grand Prix coverage details
Date Session Time Radio coverage Online text commentary
Chequered Flag podcast: Austrian Grand Prix review – download here once the race has finished
Friday, 28 June First practice 10:00-11:30 BST BBC Sport online From 09:30 BST
Second practice 14:00-15:30 BBC Sport online From 13:30
Saturday, 29 June Final practice 11:00-12:00 BBC Sport online From 10:30
Qualifying 14:00-15:00 BBC Sport online From 13:00
Sunday, 30 June Race 14:00-16:00 BBC Radio 5 Live From 12:30
Monday, 1 July Review 04:30-05:00 BBC Radio 5 Live

This content was provided by the BBC

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