Formula One: Leclerc plays down prospect of Ferrari revival

Leclerc reacts during a press conference at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria.
Leclerc reacts during a press conference at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SPIELBERG, Austria (AFP) - Charles Leclerc on Thursday (June 27) played down any immediate prospect of a Ferrari revival and admitted his Italian team will struggle against Mercedes at this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old Monegasque driver, who finished third and only a second behind Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas at last weekend's French Grand Prix at Le Castellet, said he felt Ferrari were facing a very difficult task.

"At the moment, I think it's quite difficult - they seem very quick," he said.

"They were extremely quick at Paul Ricard (Le Castellet), especially in the race-pace, so I think we are focusing on ourselves and trying to do the best job possible, but, to be honest, it's quite difficult to be at their level."

He added that his close finish behind Bottas was no indication that he was running with the same pace overall.

"Well, I think he was struggling quite a bit on the second set of tyres with some blistering, while we weren't and I think we managed quite well our race, so it shows that still everything is possible...

"But it's very difficult and if they don't run into issues, it's struggling for us to challenge them. So we are just trying to do the best with our races every time.

"On my personal side, it's good to have a good weekend. We have been struggling a bit more so it was nice, but we just need to keep working and doing that.

"We will keep faith, until the end, but of course we are all aware that the gap is quite big - and it's going to be very difficult to catch up.

"But we won't give up until its mathematically impossible so we will give it everything."

After an unprecedented eight successive season-opening wins, Mercedes have a commanding lead ahead of Ferrari in both the constructors' and drivers' championships.