Bernie Ecclestone fires warning about Leclerc and Ferrari

Ferrari's title challenge has wavered in the last few rounds, but there is a long way to go yet.

Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone does not believe that Ferrari are quite ready for a title challenge yet after recent reliability failures and strategic mistakes.

Charles Leclerc won two of the opening three rounds of the season in Bahrain and Australia, either side of a Max Verstappen victory in Saudi Arabia.

The reigning champion suffered two reliability failures of his own in the early going, but upgrades introduced by Red Bull at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix worked a charm for the Austrian outfit.

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Between Verstappen and Sergio Perez, Red Bull have taken out the last six race wins, but the Scuderia might have disrupted that flow on more than one occasion.

Leclerc started the Spanish Grand Prix on pole and, while he lost the win in Miami due to Verstappen’s superior pace, it was an engine failure that let him down in Barcelona, leading Red Bull to claim a one-two finish.

He took P1 in qualifying again in Monaco, before a series of errors on the Ferrari pit wall in changing conditions dropped him to fourth before Perez beat Carlos Sainz to victory, and things got worse from there.

Both Leclerc and Sainz suffered reliability failures in Azerbaijan while the 24-year-old was leading, and the volume of his engine troubles meant he had to start the Canadian Grand Prix in 19th after taking an engine penalty.

Verstappen held off a late charge from Sainz to win in Montreal, but the Maranello side were given a boost when Leclerc recovered to fifth after Perez retired from the race with a gearbox failure – his second non-finish of the year after joining his team-mate in the non-classified list in Bahrain.

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Verstappen now leads Perez by 46 points in the Drivers’ Standings, with Leclerc a further three back, while the Milton Keynes-based side’s lead over Ferrari now stands at 76 points.

Ecclestone believes the issues that have surfaced in the F1-75 are giving Verstappen an “easy time” in the championship.

“Errors are creeping in again,” he said.

“The reliability we are seeing is often reminiscent of the old days and the drivers themselves are not always confident on the track. 

“It means Max is having an easy time in the Red Bull with six wins already.”

Ferrari have not won a title of any kind since their constructors’ success in 2008, while Kimi Raikkonen remains their last drivers’ champion back in 2007.

The 91-year-old is not convinced that run is about to come to an end this season.

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“Like many people, I had hoped that Ferrari would succeed again after more than 14 years,” added Ecclestone.

“Unfortunately, I have to say that anyone who continues to put their money on Ferrari or Charles Leclerc will get nothing.”

Leclerc prefers to look through the histrionics and see the bigger picture and, with 13 rounds still to go of this season, Ferrari’s championship bid is far from over.

“The championship is still young. Yes, the disadvantage is 49 but that’s two wins – that’s all!” he said.

“Seriously, we just have to keep focusing on ourselves so I’m not worried.

“I’m extremely motivated to finally have a clean weekend and show that we’re still there and that we’re still strong.”

The teams head to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix next weekend where, last year, Leclerc finished second behind Sir Lewis Hamilton following contact on the opening lap between the seven-time champion and Verstappen, who was sent crashing out of the race.