Charles Leclerc accepts Max Verstappen defeat but makes Ferrari vow

Charles Leclerc must finish in the top eight to stop Max Verstappen from winning the championship this weekend.

With a 116-point deficit to championship leader Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc has effectively accepted that 2022 won’t be his year, with the Ferrari driver admitting that his team will now target “preparing for next year”.

Leclerc’s acceptance came before the Singapore Grand Prix, which returns for the first time since 2019 following the Coronavirus pandemic.

It is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar, which tests drivers both physically and mentally.

The race, which takes place at night, sees drivers lose upwards of three kilos in body weight, due to the high temperatures and humidity which push drivers to their limits around the Marina Bay Circuit.

READ: Lando Norris to Max Verstappen: ‘Maybe have a go back in our car’

The circuit also offers absolutely zero rest time, with 23 corners crammed into a 5.063km street circuit.

With this in mind, it’s vital for drivers to spend as much time as possible preparing for one of the longest races of the year.

Leclerc revealed that he “trained in a sauna” ahead of the weekend, to acclimatise to the high, humid temperatures which the drivers face across the weekend during the Asian night.

“This time, before Singapore, we had a two week break so we could prepare even more specifically,” said Leclerc.

Article continues below

“Personally, I trained in a sauna to get my body used to the very high temperatures that one encounters in the car.

“It’s vital to look at every detail, which of course is always the case but in the closing stages of the race, you need a clear mind to make up for the fact your body is getting more and more tired. It is one of the challenges of this track that makes it one of my favourites along with Monaco and Baku.”

Leclerc ended FP1 in third place, 0.402 seconds behind Sir Lewis Hamilton, who topped his first session of the season.

The Ferrari driver’s title rival Verstappen claimed P2; however, it appears that the 24-year-old isn’t too bothered with where the Dutchman is this weekend.

With his title bid having collapsed earlier in the season following driver and strategic errors, Leclerc has admitted that it’s now time to switch the focus to “preparing” to “be perfect” in 2023, with too many errors having occurred this season.

“We want to improve how we operate on a Sunday,” added the Monegasque.

READ: Oscar Piastri reveals Daniel Ricciardo gesture

“To do that we need to put together our potential and that of the car at every occasion. When we have done that, we have got the results we expected, but we haven’t always managed it.

“Since the summer break, Red Bull seems to have made another step forward in terms of its competitiveness.

“Usually this season we have been strongest in qualifying, but in the race, for various reasons, we have let points slip away.

“If we want to aim much higher next year, we have to always strive to be perfect and we want to use these last six races to now start preparing for next year.”