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today is Jun 02, 2023

After scoring his second victory in the third race of 2022, Charles Leclerc says the championship fight is on.

The Ferrari driver jumped into a 34-point lead as Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr, his closest rivals heading into the weekend, failed to score.

Following two Safety Car periods, Leclerc took the chequered flag a comfortable 20 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez and George Russell. The Mercedes driver is now second in the points standings.

He described the fourth victory of his career as “the first one where we controlled a little bit the gap.”

Leclerc raved about the performance of his Ferrari, which appeared to be managing its tyres better than Verstappen’s pursuing Red Bull, prior to his retirement.

“Honestly, what a car today,” said Leclerc. “I did a good job all weekend but it was not possible without the car. And this weekend especially in the race pace we were extremely strong.

“The tyres felt great from the first lap to the last lap we were managing the tyres extremely well and I’m just so happy.”

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However Leclerc came close to losing the lead at one restart where Verstappen put him under pressure. “It was very difficult especially the Safety Car restart,” he said. “I had a huge understeer into the last corner and [I thought] it was going to be very difficult to keep that first position.

“But then we managed to do so and after the first two or three corners I managed to regain the grip and then the pace was back.”

Verstappen’s retirement leaves Leclerc’s strongest opponent sixth in the standings, 46 points adrift. The Ferrari driver says the championship is now a realistic possibility.

“Obviously we are only at the third race so it’s difficult to think about the championship. But to be honest, we’ve got a very strong car, a very reliable car too and for now we’ve always been there so I hope it continues like this.

“If it does then we probably have chances for the championship which obviously makes me smile after last two years have been difficult for the team and also for myself. So it’s great to be back in this position.”

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