Charles Leclerc is struggling to see how he and Ferrari can get back into title contention after a tough weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

A dominant race for Red Bull on Sunday saw the Austrian team take first and second place, with drivers' championship leader Max Verstappen topping the podium from Sergio Perez.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was third, while Leclerc's dwindling title hopes took another knock when he crossed the line fifth before a penalty for speeding in the pit lane nudged him down a spot.

Leclerc now sits third in the standings with 186 points, a daunting 98 points behind Verstappen. Perez sits five points ahead of Leclerc now, too, and although there are eight races remaining, defending champion Verstappen practically has another title in the bag.

In the constructors' standings, Red Bull have 475 points, well ahead of Ferrari whose haul of 357 puts them second.

Leclerc took responsibility for his excessive pit-lane pace, saying it was "my fault... it's a mistake and that's it".

Reflecting on the bigger picture and looking at what improvements Ferrari might make, with time running out, Leclerc said: "It starts to look very difficult.

"Especially with the pace they've shown this weekend, it's going to be very, very difficult. But I'll keep my head down, try to focus race by race and try to do my best."

Speaking on Sky Sports, Leclerc was asked whether he was still in championship contention.

Again, he answered: "It starts to look very difficult."

Team-mate Sainz agreed Ferrari were left in a sticky position after an arduous weekend.

"Unfortunately it was harder than expected," said the Spaniard. "We had a lot of over-heating on the tyres, we were sliding around a lot, and for some reason our package wasn't quite there this weekend, but in the end we finished on a podium and we will take it.

"The first two laps were strong, but then we went into high degradation and I realised we were degrading more than what we should. Unfortunately we couldn't put up a stronger fight and we had to survive. We will have to learn why at this track we were not so competitive."

Sainz believes there could be stronger results ahead for Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix, which comes next, but he does not expect Red Bull to drop off and predicted they will be strong in Italy in two weeks' time.

"Zandvoort should be a better track for us," Sainz said. "Monza should be advantage for Red Bull there, but we will try and win it in Zandvoort."

Max Verstappen produced a scintillating drive to surge from 14th on the grid to win the Belgian Grand Prix and further extend his huge championship lead.

The reigning Formula One champion was fastest in Saturday's qualifying session but was one of several drivers to take a grid penalty for a power unit change, leading to him starting on the seventh row.

Yet, just as in the Hungarian Grand Prix before the mid-season break, when he started in 10th, Verstappen expertly worked his way through the field to prevail and claim a second successive win at Spa-Francorchamps.

The raw pace of the Red Bull allowed Verstappen to easily make his way to the front after a chaotic start and a second lap safety car, and he was never threatened after overtaking Carlos Sainz for the lead on lap 18. His team-mate Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-two, with the Ferraris of Sainz and Charles Leclerc sandwiched by Mercedes driver George Russell on a day that saw Verstappen's lead stretched to 96 points.

Fernando Alonso got a lightning start to put his Alpine ahead of Perez into the first corner, with the Red Bull man also overtaken by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

Yet the good work of the two former McLaren team-mates was soon undone when they collided going into the Les Combes chicane, sending Hamilton airbone as he suffered damage that ended his race.

The next lap then saw the Williams of Nicholas Latifi spin into Valtteri Bottas' Alfa Romeo, prompting a safety car as the latter ended up beached in the gravel.

Sainz locked up at the bus stop chicane at the restart but was still able to stay ahead of Perez and retain the lead.

Yet he soon began losing time to the Red Bulls and had both in his mirrors by the time he pitted on lap 12, Verstappen's spectacular charge through the field rewarded with the lead as he passed Perez while Sainz was in the pit lane.

Sainz was back ahead when Verstappen pitted for medium tyres four laps later, but Ferrari's lack of pace was encapsulated as Leclerc was unable to get past Perez on warmer tyres following the Mexican's pit stop and Verstappen succeeded in breezing past Sainz for the lead.

That set the stage for a serene second half of the race for Verstappen, whose title battle with Leclerc is turning into a procession for the Dutchman.

Carlos Sainz profited from Max Verstappen's grid penalty to secure pole for the Belgian Grand Prix but admitted to being concerned by the gap between Ferrari and Red Bull.

Verstappen topped the timesheet in Saturday's delayed qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the first race following the mid-season break.

But the reigning champion – who holds an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc at the top of the standings – will start in 15th after being penalised for using too many engine parts.

The Dutchman is one of seven drivers taking grid penalties, along with Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas.

That effectively meant the rest of field were facing off for the top 13 positions on the grid, and it was Ferrari driver Sainz who will will start Sunday's race at the head of the pack.

Whereas Verstappen looked comfortable throughout and delivered a time of 1:43.665 seconds with his first Q3 flying lap, Sainz's Q3 lap was rather scrappy.

Despite claiming pole, the Spaniard – who is fifth in the standings – was not entirely pleased with how things played out.

"I'm happy to be starting on pole, but I'm obviously not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap Red Bull have on us," he told Sky Sports.

"We need to keep digging to see why Red Bull are so fast around this track. But to start from pole is good and we will try to win tomorrow.

"I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, but there is still something to find."

The past seven winners of the Belgian Grand Prix have started from the front row of the grid, six of them from pole.

But after finishing 0.632s clear of the field in qualifying, Verstappen – last year's winner on this track – is hopeful of climbing from towards the back of the pack into the top three.

"It was an amazing qualifying but the whole weekend we have been really on it," he said. "With a car like this it would be a shame to not be on the podium.

"The car has been working really well and we have basically been trying to fine tune it and it all came together in Qualifying.

"Of course, I had to be careful with the amount of tyres I was using, but I was very happy with my lap. It is an amazing track with amazing fans and I hope they had a good day."

Verstappen is set to start one place ahead of title rival Leclerc, while team-mate Sergio Perez is second after finishing 0.165s behind Sainz.

Fernando Alonso, who is on his best run since 2018 after collecting points in each of his past eight races, is third ahead of Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Red Bull are seeking a fifth win in Belgium – only in Mexico (six) would they have more – with Perez looking to overhaul Sainz.

"P2 is not the worst place to be around here and I think if I am able to get a good run at Carlos, it will be different and I will be on the other side of the row," Perez said.

"I am looking forward to tomorrow and I think there will be a great race ahead of us. It'll be very important to get a good start and do our own race and I think that will be the key."

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will each start from the back of the grid at the Belgian Grand Prix after receiving penalties following power unit changes.

Verstappen leads Ferrari rival Leclerc by 80 points in the Formula One drivers' championship, having won eight of the 13 races so far this season.

However, the Red Bull man, who came from 10th on the grid to win the Hungarian Grand Prix prior to the mid-season break, will have to fight his way through the field to triumph at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday.

Verstappen won in Belgium last year in a race reduced to two laps behind the safety car because of a deluge that made racing unsafe.

The Dutchman, who was born in Belgium under two hours away from the circuit, has had all the components of his power unit replaced.

Leclerc, meanwhile, has taken on a fifth power unit of the season as well as a new gearbox.

Joining the title rivals at the back will be McLaren's Lando Norris, Alpine's Esteban Ocon, Haas driver Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo.

Norris, Ocon and Bottas have seen their teams opt to change their engines, while Schumacher is taking on a new control electronics unit.

The grid shake-up could put Mercedes in position to claim their first win of a difficult season, while Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez and Leclerc's fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz will each fancy their chances of winning for the second time in 2022.

Mercedes driver George Russell has claimed there is "no doubt" that Ferrari and Red Bull "pushed the regulations" during the first half of the Formula One season.

The British driver has seen Mercedes unable to compete with their rivals in the opening months of his stint with the team, having moved from Williams, but the German manufacturers hope for improvement when the season resumes this week.

A new technical directive has been put in place, starting on Sunday in Spa, aimed to crack down on porpoising – with Mercedes among those to have struggled with bouncing throughout the season.

Russell believes that the change could prove to be beneficial to Mercedes and the rest of the pack in the bid to close down on the front two teams, but warned there are no guarantees.

"Spa is going to be interesting. There's changes to some little regulations, which may bring other teams towards us," he told Sky Sports.

"There is no doubt that Ferrari and Red Bull have pushed the regulations in that regard, and we've respected it as the regulation was intended.

"There's no guarantees it will bring them closer to us. Every car is different, but it's not going to help them that's for sure."

Russell currently sits fourth in the driver standings, 100 points behind leader Max Verstappen, while Mercedes are third out of the constructors.

We back. pic.twitter.com/4b9QRyBDTg

— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) August 23, 2022

Charles Leclerc acknowledged it is more difficult to get over his own mistakes than those of his Ferrari team, and still wants to make the most of the remainder of the Formula One campaign.   Two early season victories gave Leclerc a 46-point lead over Red Bull's Max Verstappen after the first three races of the campaign, but just one win for him since has seen his Dutch rival open up an 80-point gap at the top of the drivers' championship.   On several occasions, Leclerc has been unable to see out a victory, with his engine failing twice and questionable strategies from Ferrari also appearing to cost him, while he also crashed out when leading the French Grand Prix last month.   Speaking to BBC Sport, Leclerc said he was happy that Ferrari were finally back fighting at the front, after seeing Red Bull and Mercedes dominate in recent years, but conceded further improvement is needed.   "First of all, it was amazing to see that we finally got back to fighting for wins," he said.   "On the other hand, we haven't managed to maximise all the potential we had. And this is not great. We still have the second part of the season to catch up, I hope, and I will push at the maximum. But the last few races have been a bit difficult."   Leclerc finished sixth in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, with Verstappen winning again heading into the mid-season break, with the next race in Belgium in late August.   "We want to do absolutely everything to get better in every single thing we do, and obviously looking at the first part of this season, there have been some strategy problems, there have been some reliability problems and there have been driving mistakes," Leclerc added.   "On reliability and strategy, we are working extremely hard to get better. And after a mistake, we always go through exactly the same process, which is to try and analyse from where the mistakes come, why did we take the wrong decision at a certain point of the race, in order to go forwards. As soon as we understand a mistake, then we can move on."

Leclerc outlined his process when he costs himself in a race.

"I'm extremely tough with myself," he added. "So it is much more difficult to deal with my own errors than whenever it is the team, even though we are obviously one team and we lose and we win together.

"I'm always harsher whenever it's me who does the mistake, and obviously France was one of those which hurt quite a bit.

"But whenever I go through this tough time, I go through the same process as I was saying before, trying to analyse what was wrong. And it's mostly mentally.

"To speak about it seems quite easy, but it is not always easy to pinpoint exactly what was going on in your head at that moment. But I think this is a strength of mine and helps me to improve as a driver every time I make a mistake."

When asked about his aims for the rest of the season, Leclerc said: "To try and grow from the mistakes of the first half, but try and perform as well as the first half because the performance I've given, I'm extremely happy about. And this I want to keep.

"So there won't be any significant change. We just need to try and work as a team to put a weekend together for the nine remaining races and see where we end up."

Charles Leclerc has questioned Ferrari's strategy for the Hungarian Grand Prix after dubbing his sixth-place finish as a "disaster".

A decision to put on the hard-compound tyre brought an abrupt end to Leclerc's hopes of winning the race, conceding position to Red Bull's Max Verstappen – who now sits 80-points clear in the championship standings after another victory.

Performances from others on the grid had already shown that the hard compound tyre was not competitive in Sunday's race but Ferrari, having used the medium compound twice, elected to take the hard rather than push out a longer stint before taking the softs.

That decision proved to be the undoing of Ferrari's hopes in what was an afternoon to forget, with neither driver finishing in the podium spots despite starting second and third on the grid.

Leclerc, who took full responsibility for his crash in the French Grand Prix a week ago, was asked whether he could explain the team strategy and says questions will be asked during a debrief.

"We need to speak with the team and understand the thought behind putting on the hard because I felt very strong on the medium, everything was under control," he told Sky Sports.

"For some reason, I don’t know what, we needed to go on the hards. I said on the radio that I was very comfortable on the medium and I wanted to go for as long as possible on those tyres because the feeling was good.

"I don't know why we took we took a different decision. Honestly, the pace on my side I was pretty happy with.

"The only thing is that obviously everyone will remember the last part of the race which was a disaster for me, especially the hard, that's why I lost the race.

"I lost 20 seconds with the pit, another maybe six seconds on five laps on the hard because I was all over the place with this tyre and yeah, that's where we lost our race."

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz was equally disappointed and says he simply did not have a car capable of mounting a challenge.

"We clearly struggled as a team. Today, we're a bit puzzled because we expected to have good race pace coming from Friday, but it's clear that these lower temperatures, the track condition changes, there was something going on with the car and the tyres," he told Sky Sports.

"We were not fast. It's something to analyse, to look back, regroup, see what we did wrong for these kinds of conditions and come back after the summer break with a better package."

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff defended Ferrari's tyre strategy and believes it was the only call they could have made.

"I think they had no option. They had only hard and soft left, for the soft it was too early, so it was only the hard," he said to Sky Sports.

"The mistake I think happened on Friday or Saturday, not to carry over a new medium."

Max Verstappen extended his championship lead even further with a stellar drive in Hungary to claim victory having started 10th on the grid.

The Red Bull capitalised on more woes for Ferrari to leave Verstappen heading into the break with an 80-point lead, while Mercedes enjoyed a second race in a row with both drivers finishing on the podium.

Ferrari, having started second and third on the grid, had a race to forget with both drivers finishing outside of the podium spots - with Carlos Sainz in fourth and Charles Leclerc coming home sixth.

At the start, pole-sitter George Russell was immediately put under pressure by the Ferraris behind him but maintained his advantage following the first corner, then opening a two-second window following an early virtual safety car after contact between Alex Albon and Lance Stroll.

With soft tyres losing speed, Russell pitted from the lead at the end of lap 16 and Sainz, on the medium, made an overcut attempt one lap later but remained behind the Mercedes.

Verstappen benefited during the first round of pit stops to continue his charge up the grid, taking fourth on lap 21, while Leclerc came out ahead of team-mate Sainz after his stop.

Still in the lead at the start of lap 28, Russell's performance meant Mercedes had led more laps in the race than they had in the entirety of the season prior to this weekend and Russell, though defending aggressively, was overtaken at turn one by Leclerc on lap 31.

Verstappen blinked first in the second round of pit stops and completed an undercut on Russell, then overtaking Leclerc twice, either side of a spin, with Ferrari unable to find the pace on the hard compound as another strategy decision cost the Monegasque, who inevitably had to take a third stop to swap to the softs.

Hamilton's strategy worked much better and saw him stand as the biggest threat to Verstappen's lead heading into the latter stages, overtaking Sainz at the start of lap 63 and then taking team-mate Russell on lap 65.

Late rain threatened to cause drama on the final lap but Verstappen was able to cruise home for a 28th career win - equalling Nigel Mansell's record of the most F1 wins for a single team.

Ferrari, meanwhile, will now be looking over their shoulder after the break with their advantage over Mercedes in the constructors' championship now standing at just 30 points.

Ferrari's frustrating calls

Plenty of scrutiny has been directed towards Ferrari for questionable calls made during the 2022 Formula One season and the Hungarian Grand Prix added further fuel to that particular fire.

Having seen Alpine's own woes on the hard compound, which saw both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso tumble down the field, Ferrari bemusingly still opted to put Leclerc on that tyre.

The poor performance of the compound was shown when Verstappen, who had overtaken Leclerc, spun to lose the position but was still able to chase down his title rival and reclaim the position without too much of a challenge.

Russell's run ends

Heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix, Mercedes duo Russell and Hamilton were the only two drivers on the grid to have improved or maintained their starting position in every race this season.

Hamilton, starting seventh and finishing second, was able to maintain that sequence but Russell, on pole position, secured a third-place finish and saw his run of improvement come to an end.

However, that finish sealed back-to-back podium finishes for Russell at Mercedes, while it also marked the second race in a row with both Silver Arrows drivers on the rostrum.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +7.834

3. George Russell (Mercedes) +12.337

4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +14.579

5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +15.688

6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +16.047

7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +78.300

8. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) + One lap

9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) + One lap

10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) + One lap

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 258

2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 178

3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 173

4. George Russell (Mercedes) 158

5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 156

Constructors

1. Red Bull 431

2. Ferrari 334

3. Mercedes 304

4. Alpine 99

5. McLaren 95

Carlos Sainz is relishing the prospect of battling against front-row rival George Russell in the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Mercedes driver Russell stunned Ferrari's drivers with a stellar lap in the closing stages of qualifying to snatch the first pole position of his career, with Sainz lining up second on the grid and team-mate Charles Leclerc in third.

It sets up an interesting race in Hungary, the last before F1's summer break, with McLaren's Lando Norris in fourth while the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez begin in 10th and 11th respectively.

While Mercedes have an advantage at the start, their car continues to be a largely unknown quantity and Ferrari will fancy their chances of securing a win – with Sainz confirming the team will be pushing for that goal.

"I'm not very happy with the final result as I feel I could have done a better lap on the final attempt," he said after qualifying.

"However, I prefer to focus on the positives: we are in a good position for tomorrow, I've been comfortable in the car all weekend, and we keep making steps in the right direction.

"I'm confident we can carry the good pace of Friday into the race, so we'll definitely go for it.

"Congrats to George on his first pole. He did a very good lap today and I look forward to the battle tomorrow."

Leclerc is equally confident Ferrari can respond after a frustrating qualifying session, as he too looks to challenge team-mate Sainz and Russell for the win – which would provide a boost after last weekend's crash in France.

"The pace is there and we know we have some work to do," Leclerc said. "I'm confident we can come back stronger tomorrow."

Sebastian Vettel's retirement announcement ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix has been the biggest talking point on the grid, with the German's departure set to leave a significant void for Aston Martin to fill.

The four-time world champion played an integral part in Red Bull's rise to become an F1 powerhouse, winning back-to-back championships between 2010 and 2013.

Vettel's championships make him an F1 great, with only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton (both seven) and Juan Manuel Fangio (five) winning more world titles.

In terms of race wins, Vettel is again near the summit with 53 victories, only behind Hamilton (103) and Schumacher (91), while he is one of only five drivers to secure at least 100 podium finishes – alongside Hamilton, Schumacher, Alain Prost and Kimi Raikkonen.

Those regular appearances in the front three have also given him an honour that only Hamilton can equal, with the pair being the only drivers in F1 history to have secured over 3,000 career points – with Vettel having 3,076 ahead of Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Singapore has been Vettel's favoured venue, with five victories and 195 points, and the Far East has been where Vettel has excelled in qualifying – securing pole position on eight occasions in both Singapore and Japan.

Throughout the course of his career, Vettel has raced for five different teams – starting with Sauber, where he scored points in his only outing for the team and then signed for Toro Rosso – securing his first pole and victory in August 2007 in Italy.

After 25 races with the Italian team, Vettel moved to Red Bull, for whom he appeared in 113 races, with only Mark Webber (129) and Max Verstappen (130 so far) featuring more for the Austrian outfit.

Vettel also boasts the most wins (38), the most pole positions (44) and the most fastest laps (24) for Red Bull.

In 2011, Vettel was on pole position for 15 of 19 races, an F1 record, and he won 13 races in 2013 – a joint-record alongside Schumacher.

Vettel's era of dominance came to an end at the start of F1's hybrid era, finishing fifth in the standings in 2014 with just four podiums from 19 races, and he subsequently joined Ferrari for the 2015 season.

The German continued to struggle, with just three wins and one pole position in his first year with the Italian side – although those wins were the most registered in a single season for Ferrari since Fernando Alonso in 2012 (also three).

Overall, Vettel raced 118 times for Ferrari and amassed 14 race wins, 55 podiums, 12 pole positions and 1,400 points.

Should all go to plan, Vettel's final fling in his F1 career will come in Abu Dhabi, the season finale and his 300th career race.

So far for Aston Martin, he has a single podium, in Azerbaijan in 2021, and has earned 58 points from 32 races.

George Russell was left with an "incredible feeling" after he upset the odds to claim his first pole position for Mercedes at the Hungarian Grand Prix as Red Bull endured a dismal day.

Carlos Sainz, seeming more comfortable in the Ferrari with every race, appeared destined for pole from his flying lap at the Hungaroring.

However, Russell, having complained of a lack of grip throughout the practice sessions, came almost from nowhere to put together a remarkable final lap and take top spot with a time of one minute and 17.377 seconds.

He prevented a Ferrari one-two after the Red Bulls had been removed completely from the equation. Sergio Perez failed to make it out of Q2, alleging he was blocked by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, and Max Verstappen then complained of a loss of power in the top-10 shoot-out. Championship leader Verstappen will start 10th, ahead of Perez in 11th.

Ferrari are still in a tremendous position to take advantage of Red Bull's woes, with Sainz set to start second ahead of Charles Leclerc in third.

"I'm over the moon. Absolutely buzzing," said Russell, whose team-mate Lewis Hamilton could only manage seventh amid an issue with his DRS. 

"The lap time kept on coming. I came across the line and saw we went P1 and that was an incredible feeling."

Asked if it means Mercedes are back, Russell replied: "I don't know to be honest, we need to look and understand where that came from, there's a few ideas we had.

"There's no points for qualifying. Generally we had good race pace, but the Ferraris looked very fast on Friday, but we are going to be absolutely going for it [tomorrow], but either way that was a pretty special day no doubt."

Leclerc and Sainz appeared relaxed despite missing out on locking out the front row.

Leclerc will have the McLaren of Lando Norris for company on the second row, with the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso behind them in fifth and sixth.

"Mostly we are focusing on ourselves," Ferrari's Leclerc said when asked about Red Bull's problems. "I've been struggling massively with the tyres. I struggled to put a lap together.

"I'm pretty sure we've got the pace in the car to come back at the front. I'm pretty sure we can come back tomorrow."

Sainz looked much more assured than his team-mate but echoed Leclerc's sentiments after losing critical time in the final part of his final flying lap.

"Definitely feeling better and better every race and every qualifying session," Sainz said. "I felt like I had the pace to do the pole position, it went away from us.

"We have the [race] pace; the start and the tyre management will play a key role. The Mercedes pace is a bit of an unknown."


PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. George Russell (Mercedes) 1:17.377
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.044
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.190
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.392
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.641
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.701
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.765
8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.780
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.002
10. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.446

Max Verstappen thinks it will be impossible for Red Bull to challenge Ferrari in dry conditions at the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen could only manage fourth in the second free practice session on Friday, with Charles Leclerc almost three tenths of a second quicker. 

Rain is forecast for qualifying on Saturday and the Dutchman believes it will be essential for him to have any chance of pushing the Scuderia all the way. 

"A bit tricky as expected around here. Just trying to find a balance from high to low speed," said Verstappen. 

"Sometimes it worked a bit better, sometimes a bit more tricky but a bit of work to do. 

"I think [Ferrari] are a bit ahead of us. I think it will be hard for us to beat that. But I think overnight we will try to close the gap as much as we can and see what the weather will give us as well. 

"I think in the dry we can't compete, so maybe in the rain we can, who knows?" 

After the disappointment of crashing out from the French Grand Prix last weekend, Leclerc felt Ferrari were on "the right road" with their race simulations. 

"It's been a very productive day, changed quite a lot of things on the car on my side," said Leclerc. "FP1 was quite tricky, FP2 we took the right road so confident that we did the right work for Sunday. 

"It looks like it's going to rain [on Saturday] so we have to be on top of this and obviously put the tyres in the right window, which is always a difficult thing whenever it's raining. 

"This will be our main priority, but hopefully if we manage to put them in the right window, we will still have this advantage." 

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has paid tribute to former team-mate Sebastian Vettel following the announcement that he will retire from Formula One at the end of the season.

Leclerc spent two years alongside Vettel at Ferrari and conceded he was starstruck when they first met, but now considers the four-time world champion to be a friend.

The youngster crashed during the French Grand Prix, and revealed Vettel messaged him to offer his support.

It will be a strange feeling for Leclerc to return in 2023 without Vettel in the paddock, where he has been an ever-present since making his F1 bow in 2007.

"I arrived the first year and I was obviously super impressed and I think I was probably very weird to him because I was shy and didn't know what to say when I was with him," Leclerc said ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

"But now he's a friend and he always texts me, like he did after Sunday, and always tried to make me feel better whenever I'm going through a tough time.

"Obviously it's going to be strange to not see Seb inside the paddock. I've learned so much driving with him and he’s always been super nice with me."

Vettel confirmed on Thursday that this would be his last season in F1 and, if everything goes to plan, the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi will be his 300th on the grid.

Defending champion Max Verstappen also hailed Vettel's impact and backed his decision to retire.

"He has achieved so much in this sport that it's fully understandable for him to retire," he told a news conference.

"He's had an amazing career, he's won a lot of races, he's won a lot of championships as well. He's a great ambassador [for] the sport.

"To see him go, it's something that you could see coming, everyone is getting older and at some point, everyone is retiring. It's never nice when that moment arrives but these things happen.

"I think it's important now that he's going to enjoy his life with his family as F1 is such a short period of time in your life, you work so hard to achieve all these things that he has achieved, now it's time to enjoy."

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has paid tribute to former team-mate Sebastian Vettel following the announcement that he will retire from Formula One at the end of the season.

Leclerc spent two years alongside Vettel at Ferrari and conceded he was starstruck when they first met, but now considers the four-time world champion to be a friend.

The youngster crashed during the French Grand Prix, and revealed Vettel messaged him to offer his support.

It will be a strange feeling for Leclerc to return in 2023 without Vettel in the paddock, where he has been an ever-present since making his F1 bow in 2007.

"I arrived the first year and I was obviously super impressed and I think I was probably very weird to him because I was shy and didn't know what to say when I was with him," Leclerc said ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

"But now he's a friend and he always texts me, like he did after Sunday, and always tried to make me feel better whenever I'm going through a tough time.

"Obviously it's going to be strange to not see Seb inside the paddock. I've learned so much driving with him and he’s always been super nice with me."

Vettel confirmed on Thursday that this would be his last season in F1 and, if everything goes to plan, the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi will be his 300th on the grid.

Defending champion Max Verstappen also hailed Vettel's impact and backed his decision to retire.

"He has achieved so much in this sport that it's fully understandable for him to retire," he told a news conference.

"He's had an amazing career, he's won a lot of races, he's won a lot of championships as well. He's a great ambassador [for] the sport.

"To see him go, it's something that you could see coming, everyone is getting older and at some point, everyone is retiring. It's never nice when that moment arrives but these things happen.

"I think it's important now that he's going to enjoy his life with his family as F1 is such a short period of time in your life, you work so hard to achieve all these things that he has achieved, now it's time to enjoy."

Sebastian Vettel will bring an end to his illustrious Formula One career at the end of the season, he revealed on Thursday.

The four-time F1 champion has seen the current campaign shrouded by speculation on his future, with his deal with Aston Martin expiring at the end of the year – and he has now made the decision to step away into retirement.

"I have had the privilege of working with many fantastic people in Formula One over the past 15 years - there are far too many to mention and thank," he said in a statement.

"The decision to retire has been a difficult one for me to take, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. At the end of the year I want to take some more time to reflect on what I will focus on next.

"It is very clear to me that, being a father, I want to spend more time with my family. But today is not about saying goodbye.

"Rather, it is about saying thank you – to everyone – not least to the fans, without whose passionate support Formula One could not exist."

Vettel began his F1 career in 2007 with BMW, then moved to Toro Rosso for a two-year stint before stepping up to join Red Bull.

Finishing second in his first season with Red Bull, Vettel then won four consecutive world titles from 2010 to 2013 and left to join Ferrari in 2015, spending six seasons there.

Vettel finished 12th in the drivers' championship in 2021, his first season with Aston Martin, and lies 14th in the standings in 2022 – having picked up just 15 points.

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