Driver expresses ‘personal opinion’ that his team will not catch Red Bull in F1 2023

Jamie Woodhouse
Sergio Perez leads a Red Bull and Ferrari battle in Baku.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, leads Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, and Max Verstappen.

Charles Leclerc says that while Ferrari have their sights set on challenging Red Bull next season, in his opinion, doing so in F1 2023 is now beyond their capabilities.

Leclerc and his Ferrari team came into F1 2023 very much intent on mounting a title challenge against the Red Bull team which had pulled away from them into the second-half of the 2022 campaign.

Leclerc would claim a P2 finish in the 2022 Drivers’ Championship, Ferrari securing the same spot in the Constructors’, and so as Leclerc pointed out in conversation with Motorsport.com, “at that point, you only have one goal to aim for, to become World Champion.”

Red Bull out of Ferrari’s reach reckons Charles Leclerc

Ferrari though has not been able to put Leclerc in contention to achieve that F1 2023 goal, with Red Bull only stretching their margin of dominance over the rest of the grid.

Their RB19 challenger has accounted for all 12 grand prix wins so far this season, as well as the three sprint victories for good measure, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull now well on the way to making it back-to-back title doubles.

Ferrari meanwhile find themselves alongside Mercedes, Aston Martin and McLaren in the battle for that ‘best of the rest’ P2 spot in the Constructors’, and in Leclerc’s opinion, getting the better of that trio while narrowing the on-track deficit to Red Bull is the best Ferrari can now do in F1 2023, rather than taking the fight to Red Bull before the season is done.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Top 10 earliest season finishes: Where could Max Verstappen rank on all-time list?

F1 points all-time rankings: Where do Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso feature?

“I think the realistic goal we want to try to achieve is to be the strongest team after Red Bull, and at the same time try to close the gap,” said Leclerc of Ferrari’s goals for the second-half of F1 2023.

“Then, if we talk about 2024, there’s no doubt that in the minds of the whole team the goal is to be back at the top and fighting against Red Bull, a target that realistically, and I say this as a personal opinion, before the end of the year we won’t be able to reach. The most realistic target will be to finish the season ahead of McLaren, Aston Martin and Mercedes.”

The task does not get any easier for Verstappen’s distant pursuers with the season set to resume on home soil for the runaway Championship leader, as Circuit Zandvoort hosts the Dutch Grand Prix from August 25-27.

There Verstappen will be out to equal the record currently held by Sebastian Vettel with a ninth victory in a row.

Read next: Mercedes facing era-defining second half of the season as crucial decision looms