Charles Leclerc appears to have acknowledged Lewis Hamilton’s advice in his Formula One Drivers’ Championship duel with Max Verstappen. Ferrari driver Leclerc trails his Red Bull rival by 80 points at the summer break and has only nine races to overturn that deficit.
Even if Leclerc won all of those races with Verstappen second, that would still only cut 70 points out of the Dutchman’s advantage. It appears the Scuderia need the Red Bulls to suffer DNFs in order for Leclerc to have a feasible chance of being Ferrari’s first world champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
Despite Verstappen’s lead, Hamilton offered Ferrari some advice before the Hungarian Grand Prix – which Verstappen won as Leclerc finished P6 in Budapest. He said: “It is a massive gap to Max so that is pretty smooth-sailing for him in that space. But a lot can go wrong. I would just advise Ferrari to keep their heads down and continue to push.”
And it looks as though Leclerc is listening. The Monegasque said to BBC Sport that it looks “more and more difficult” for him to win the driver’s title this year but refusing to admit defeat, adding: “Until it’s mathematically over, then I still want to believe in it. This is what gives me the motivation.”
He continued: “I really feel like this first part of the season has been my strongest in F1 and I think the way I have worked. And the way we have worked as a team – in terms of finding the right set-up, in terms of building up to the qualifying lap in Q3 or just preparing the race – has been the best I have ever done in F1.
“So there is no need for me to change that approach. Again, try and grow from the mistakes of the first half, but try and perform as well as the first half because the performance I’ve given, I’m extremely happy about. And this I want to keep.
“So there won’t be any significant change. We just need to try and work as a team to put a weekend together for the nine remaining races and see where we end up.”
Ferrari have made several mistakes throughout the year that have seen them fritter away points in the championship fight. Despite seven poles, former F2 champion Leclerc has only won three races this year and just one since the third round of the season.
Leclerc continued: “We haven’t managed to maximise all the potential we had. And this is not great. We still have the second part of the season to catch up, I hope, and I will push at the maximum. But the last few races have been a bit difficult.
“We want to do absolutely everything to get better in every single thing we do, and obviously looking at the first part of this season, there have been some strategy problems, there have been some reliability problems and there have been driving mistakes.
“We are working extremely hard to get better. And after a mistake, we always go through exactly the same process, which is to try and analyse from where the mistakes come in order to go forwards. The way that we work [gives me confidence] because I know how tough it’s been the last few years to get back to where we are.
“And I know that we arrived to that level because for two years we have been working on those weaknesses of the car. So, we still have weaknesses and we need to work on them. But if we work as well as we did in the last two years on other weaknesses, I am confident we will overcome them.”