Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has conceded that winning the championship is now going to be an uphill struggle.
Leclerc entered the Dutch Grand Prix weekend 98 points adrift of Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Standings, and the teams headed to a Zandvoort Circuit where, theoretically, the Scuderia were expected to be faster than Red Bull.
The Monegasque had started second behind Verstappen, and the pair led the Mercedes duo of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the opening exchanges.
Both Verstappen and Leclerc pitted for Mediums after their first stint, but the Ferrari got caught out by a Virtual Safety Car, enabling Verstappen to pit and re-join comfortably ahead.
Both Hamilton and Russell, having made their only scheduled stop, also got a free change of rubber, putting Leclerc fourth.
A late Safety Car brought the 24-year-old back into play, but he was only able to pass Hamilton for third as Russell took second behind Verstappen.
The reigning champion took the fastest lap as well as the win, putting him 109 points ahead of Leclerc in the championship.
After the race, the five-time race winner noted how quick Mercedes were, particularly on the Hards in their second stint.
“I think we are [disappointed] as a team,” Leclerc told Lawrence Barretto.
“On the Softs, I think we were strong because, considering we had used tyres compared to Max’s new tyres, we were relatively quick.
“But then on Mediums for some reason, it didn’t feel as good, and the Hards neither, but the surprise is mostly Mercedes on the hard tyres, they were extremely quick today.
“Maybe we can learn something from it.”
As for the championship, Leclerc recognises that he is fighting a losing battle at this stage with seven rounds to go.
“Red Bull is the faster car at the moment, especially in race pace,” he conceded.
“In quali, I think we are very close, Mercedes seemed to have gained a bit of performance in race pace too, so it’s looking difficult.”
Carlos Sainz’s race was initially ruined by a botched pit stop, before an unsafe release by the Ferrari crew earned the Spaniard a five-second penalty, putting him down to eighth.
Ferrari now trail Red Bull by 135 points in the Constructors’ Standings after Sergio Perez finished fifth, with Mercedes now just 30 behind the Scuderia.