Mercedes 'difficult to catch', says Ferrari's 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.”

This article is from the BBC Sport website / bbc.co.uk – Mercedes ‘difficult to catch’, says Ferrari’s Leclerc