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Leclerc plays down Ferrari expectations in Mexico

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Red Bull's Sergio Perez are fighting for second in the F1 Drivers' Championship heading into Perez's home 2022 Mexican Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc has admitted Red Bull are the team to beat for the Mexican Grand Prix and reiterated his priority for 2022 is building for next season rather than beating Sergio Perez to second place.

Leclerc started the season hoping to become world champion but has been soundly beaten by Max Verstappen and is now battling Perez for second place.

“For now I still believe that Red Bull will be the team to beat on Sunday,” Leclerc told the press ahead of the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix.

“They always seem to find something from the Saturday to the Sunday that we can’t quite find, but we are getting there. I don’t know whether this track will be better or worse but anyway, I believe it will be close on Sunday.”

Leclerc hasn’t won since the Austrian Grand Prix in July, and has completely fallen out of the championship fight, which Verstappen sealed in Japan.

In a chaotic finale, Verstappen only found out he was champion in the post-race interview. That was due to a post-race penalty for Leclerc in his fight with Perez, who now leads the Monegasque driver by two points in the race for third.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull on the podium with second placed Charles Leclerc of Ferrari after the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

“Of course with Ferrari we are working to win the world championship,” Leclerc added, “but now we know that winning the world championship is not possible anymore.

“We’ll try and use these last three races in order to be a better team for next year and to challenge for the for the world championship again.

“Having said that second is better than third, and we’ll give everything to obviously beat Checo.”

A clean fight, a fair fight

Perez arrives at the Mexican Grand Prix with his best-ever chance of bagging a home win.

It’s his seventh time at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but only the second race where he’s had genuine race-winning machinery.

He’s promised to fight Verstappen to the last lap if the race win’s on the line, but both Perez and Leclerc said they’d keep their battle fair.

“In general with Charles has been good, you know the fighting will always be really close, really tight,” Perez said.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates after qualifying on pole for 2022 French Grand Prix with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez | REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Pool

“And you know that Charles will be aggressive but always fair, and it’s something that I don’t believe will change because he’s like that. I feel from my side, I’m also fair, so I don’t expect that to change.”

That said, Leclerc was clear that time is running out to make up for lost opportunities and he intends to take advantage of any chances.

“If there’s an opportunity I’ll go for it’s as Checo will go for it,” Leclerc added. “It’s always been the case, the closer we get to the end of the season the less opportunities you have to make a difference.

“But we also know that we are fighting each other so we can take maybe a bit more risks when we fight each other, that’s what makes it exciting, I’m sure we won’t give any, margin on track.”

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