Charles Leclerc admits late title challenge now ‘looking very, very difficult’

Henry Valantine
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc on the grid. Spa August 2022.

Charles Leclerc acknowledged that catching Max Verstappen in the World Championship is now a “very difficult” prospect in the final eight races.

Verstappen and Leclerc started down in P14 and P15 respectively after they both took grid penalties for taking new power unit parts beyond the year’s allowance, and while the Red Bull driver sailed through the field to take the race victory, Leclerc found the going tougher at Spa.

He managed to make his way through to fifth on the road, but a late pit stop to set up a fastest lap attempt backfired on him, as he lost track position to Fernando Alonso and could not beat Verstappen’s quickest time.

And his problems were further added to when he was given a five-second penalty for going 1km/h over the pit lane speed limit when he came in, which dropped him below Alonso in the final classification.

He had to stop early after a visor tear-off became lodged in his right-front brake cooling system, and he knew it was going to be an uphill battle from there.

Leclerc told Sky F1 after the race: “At the start I was quite hopeful and then we had the tear-off in the brake, so we had to stop and start everything again and then I knew it was going to be a difficult race from that moment onward.

“P6 at the end unfortunately with what happened in the end, so it’s like this.”

The Ferrari driver also accepted blame for his speeding offence, going the narrowest margin above the limit but still being penalised nonetheless.

More than his transgression, though, he acknowledged the pace gap to Red Bull at Spa was a concerning one.

“The pit lane is not bad luck, it’s just my fault. So it’s a mistake, and that’s it,” Leclerc stated.

“On the other hand, we were just not quick enough to this weekend. And this is a big problem more than anything, so we need to work on that.”

Sergio Perez’s second place actually took him above Leclerc in the standings, dropping the Monégasque down to third heading into next weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.

Now having 98 points to make up on Verstappen before the end of the season, he admitted he will have to take things step by step and improve if he is to put up more of a fight.

“It starts to look very difficult, especially with the pace they’ve shown this weekend,” Leclerc said.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult but I’ll get my head down and try to focus race by race and do my best.”