Leclerc gives opinion on when Hamilton and Mercedes will join championship battle

George Russell finished on the podium in Spain after Charles Leclerc suffered a reliability failure.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc predicts that the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend will once again be predominantly about Red Bull and Ferrari, as he does not think Mercedes are quite ready to fight for wins yet.

The Scuderia and the Austrian outfit have won all of the opening six rounds of the season, with four going to Max Verstappen, while Leclerc has won the other two.

The Monegasque looked set to draw level on wins with the reigning champion in Barcelona last weekend and extend his lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, but Ferrari’s first reliability failure of the season saw him retire from the race with just under 30 laps gone.

READ: ‘Incredible degradation’: Albon suggests six-stop strategy could have worked in Barcelona

Verstappen took full advantage after an eventful day for him, and he leads by six points going into this weekend’s race in the Principality.

Mercedes looked better in Spain after a tumultuous start to the year in which they struggled to get to the bottom of their “porpoising” and general lack of pace, but they were consistently fast last weekend, and their efforts were rewarded by a podium for George Russell.

Sir Lewis Hamilton recovered from 19th having made contact on the opening lap with Kevin Magnussen, and finished fifth.

He might have finished ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz had it not been for a late cooling threat, confirming that the Silver Arrows are certainly back on the right trajectory.

However, their recovery back to the top of the timesheets is going to be a gradual one as Ferrari and Red Bull continue to develop, so Leclerc does not believe the German side will be involving themselves in the battle this weekend.

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“I think it will be more between Red Bull and Ferrari, at the moment Mercedes are still a bit behind even though they have made progress, but a team like this can never really be left out of the debate,” he told La Gazette de Monaco.

The 24-year-old’s retirement in Catalunya was a heart-shattering one given how admirably he had performed all weekend, but reliability gremlins are inevitable for everyone, so he prefers to take the positives from a weekend where he was almost untouchable.

“It’s a shame, in those moments I believe that there is nothing else I can do apart from looking at the positives and there are plenty this weekend,” explained Leclerc.

“There is the qualifying pace, the race pace and most importantly the tyre management, that has been a weakness in the last two races.

READ: Teams may have to stop bringing upgrades after the Canadian GP

“I think we definitely found something this weekend on that, so it gives me the confidence for the rest of the season but on the other hand we will look at this issue and we cannot afford for this to happen many times during the season.

“So we need to find the problem.”

Leclerc is unphased by losing the championship lead to Verstappen, and aims to bounce back this weekend at his home grand prix.

“I think what is the most important is the overall performance and performance-wise we are performing very well,” he added.

“So, I can’t wait to go at home next week and hopefully we’ll have a great result.”

Sergio Perez’s second place in Spain secured the second one-two of the season for Red Bull, and it moves them 26 point ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.