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Charles Leclerc

Ferrari veteran admits team have 'mountain to climb' in title fight

Ferrari's long-term associate Marc Gene has acknowledged the scale of the uphill battle facing the Scuderia.

Verstappen Leclerc Baku
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Former F1 driver Marc Gene believes there is no reason why the Scuderia can't pull back the widening gap in the World Championship, as Ferrari fell to 80 points behind Red Bull following their double retirement in Azerbaijan.

Gene, a former Minardi racer before joining Ferrari as their long-term test driver and brand ambassador, has said the mood within the Scuderia remains optimistic of a bounceback despite being beaten by Red Bull for five consecutive race weekends.

In Azerbaijan, Ferrari's strong qualifying came to naught as both of their cars retired before half distance.

Carlos Sainz retired from fourth place on Lap 9 with a hydraulic issue on his F1-75, while Leclerc retired from the lead on Lap 20 - the second time in three races he's broken down while leading.

As a result, Leclerc's deficit in the Drivers' Championship has grown to 34 points behind Max Verstappen, and Gene revealed the extent of the pain within the Ferrari camp.

Gene: There are positives

"Every time we've had a DNF with Charles, he's been leading the race," he said on the F1 Nation podcast. "That is even more painful today [as] we did the right strategy call. But then you don’t see it in the result.

"So whenever we make a wrong strategy call, we are also leading. Every time we make a mistake, reliability or strategy, we lose 25 points and when we don't make that mistake, [it's] not always we win. So [it's] very painful."

Leclerc had made a pitstop for a fresh set of Hards on Lap 10, a seemingly questionable strategy given there were over 40 laps to go at that point. While it handed a handy lead to the Ferrari driver due to the timing of the Virtual Safety Car, the challenge would have been holding off the pursuing Red Bulls on fresher tyres.

But Gene reckons Leclerc had the pace in hand to win the race until his engine blew up.

"Of course there are positives," the Spaniard said.

"The main one is that was a very high-speed track where you would have thought maybe Red Bull were stronger, and I think Charles would have won the race.

"The Hard tyres, they made it to the end with [Daniel] Ricciardo and [Pierre] Gasly – they did many laps. So we have the pace, that's the main thing. You want to have the pace and then, from that, you have the reliability.

"But we were more aggressive than Red Bull. I'm sure it was the right strategy call, so that shows the team is not so influenced about such a difficult week we had after Monaco.

"But, if you think about the championship, and you look now at the classification, it's a very high mountain to climb. You can do it with a car as fast as ours. But today is something worrying because [it was] not only [us] – two other cars had other issues [Zhou and Magnussen]."

Gene confident Ferrari can claw it back

It's been a tumultuous season already, given that Red Bull and Verstappen recovered from their poor start to the campaign. With Leclerc winning two of the first three races alongside Verstappen's retirements, Red Bull turned around a large deficit into an already impressive advantage.

Given the speed of Ferrari's F1-75, Gene reckons it's possible for Ferrari to emulate the same feat.

"It’s incredible how Red Bull have got back so many points," he said.

"We can do that the same way and with the car we have, for sure we can do that. Now we have to see [what] the reliability issue is. You know, if it's a one-off thing or it's something when you have an engine problem, sometimes you have to redesign and produce and it’s not something you do from one week to another.

"But the good thing is the car is fast on all types of tracks. We went from Monaco to Baku and we got pole and we were the quickest car in the race. So why not get back these 50 points?"

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