With title rival Max Verstappen leading the championship by an impressive 80 points, Charles Leclerc could be forgiven for admitting to doubts about his title challenge as the F1 season resumes. But the Monegasque driver was defiant on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix, confirming that the championship is still on his mind.
After leading the drivers’ standings at the start of the year with victories in Bahrain and Australia, Leclerc has seen his Red Bull rival not only overtake him, but pull a large lead, as Verstappen went on to win five of six races between Imola and Canada. And Leclerc’s chances were harmed by incidents in Spain, Baku, and France, where he retired from the lead with reliability issues before collapsing while leading at Paul Ricard.
“Of course, I still believe in the championship; it will be a very difficult challenge, but I will believe in it until the very end,” Leclerc said at Spa. “I believe we will take [the races] one at a time as a team.” But we must make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.”
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Those chances begin this weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which holds a special place in Leclerc’s heart as the site of his first Formula One victory in 2019. But, when asked whether Ferrari or Red Bull will be stronger here this weekend, Leclerc refused to be drawn and instead stated that it will come down to more than just the car this year.
“It’s whoever puts together the perfect weekend, because there is very little between Red Bull and ourselves.” Maybe we’re a little bit stronger at times, maybe they’re a little bit stronger at times, and now there’s Mercedes in the mix, which is nice. But, in the end, the winner simply puts together a great weekend, and I believe that is where the difference between the two teams will be found.”
Meanwhile, after a tumultuous first half of the season, the Ferrari driver confirmed that the summer break was “needed” as he sought to shake off any hangover from his early-season issues.
Verstappen is excited to take on ‘old school’ Spa, while Perez arrives in Belgium’recharged’ for Red Bull.
“The first part of the season has been full of highs and lows, loads of emotions, and there’s a lot of emotion accumulation that leads to being tired,” he explained.