Charles Leclerc Belgian Grand Prix

Follow Practice 1 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix LIVE from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Friday, 26 August. Photo: Twitter @ScuderiaFerrari

LIVE | Belgian Grand Prix: Practice 1 – Friday, 26 August 2022

Follow Practice 1 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix LIVE from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Friday, 26 August.

Charles Leclerc Belgian Grand Prix

Follow Practice 1 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix LIVE from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Friday, 26 August. Photo: Twitter @ScuderiaFerrari

Follow Practice 1 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix LIVE from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Friday, 26 August.

The action starts at 14:00 (SA time).

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Meanwhile, a defiant Charles Leclerc on Thursday said he still believes he can beat Max Verstappen and win this year’s world title for Ferrari, starting with a perfect result at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

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Despite facing an 80-point deficit in the championship with nine races remaining, the 24-year-old Monegasque driver maintained an optimistic outlook and declared he retained his faith in a fallible Ferrari team.

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“I still believe in the championship of course,” he told reporters at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

“It’s going to be a very difficult challenge, but I will believe in it until the very end.

“I think we will take it one by one as a team, each race, but for sure we need to try and maximise every opportunity that we have ahead.”

Having enjoyed a three-week break since the Hungarian Grand Prix, a calm Leclerc was in bright and positive mood, preferring to focus on his opportunity ahead rather than reflect on failings exposed in the first part of the season.

“The first part of the season has been full of highs and lows with loads of emotions and there’s lots of accumulation of emotion that leads to being tired,” he admitted.

“So, I was quite happy to go on holiday.”

He acknowledged that after building up a 46-point lead from the opening three races, he and Ferrari had lost their grip and allowed Red Bull to exploit every mistake made to take commanding control.

A combination of mechanical failings, tactical and strategic mistakes and individual errors resulted in Leclerc converting his seven poles overall into only three victories while Verstappen claimed eight wins from only three prime starting spots.

For Leclerc, it led to questions about his faith in Ferrari, but on Thursday he appeared to have resolved his doubts and committed himself again to leading their bid for a first title since Kimi Raikkonen’s triumph in 2007.

Looking ahead to what promises to be another close contest with Red Bull, he said: “It’s about whoever puts together a perfect weekend because between Red Bull and ourselves there is very little – maybe sometimes we are a tiny bit stronger and sometimes they are a tiny big stronger.

“And now, there is also Mercedes to consider as they are coming back into the fight, which is nice, but in the end the one who wins puts a great weekend together.

“So, that is where we will find the difference between the two teams I think.”

For Leclerc this weekend will supply the additional boost of taking him back to the scene of his maiden F1 victory in 2019, a triumph shrouded by sad memories as it came 24 hours after the death of his close friend Frenchman Anthoine Hubert in a Formula Two race.

For Ferrari, too, Belgium stirs deep feelings. They have won a record 18 Belgian Grands Prix overall, but the team also experienced tragedy, most notably in 1982 when Gilles Villeneuve was killed during final qualifying following a collision with the blameless Jochen Mass’ March car at high speed.

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse