Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc say they relish the “exciting” ongoing battle between Ferrari and Mercedes in Formula 1 in 2023.

Both teams’ respective hopes of mounting a title challenge this year were stymied by inconsistent cars and the dominance of Red Bull, who secured the Constructors’ Championship with six rounds to spare.

But while Mercedes retained a comfortable advantage in second place heading into the summer break, Ferrari have outscored the German marque at each of the last three rounds to close the deficit to only 20 points.

Since acquiring a better understanding of its volatile SF-23, Ferrari has managed to record two pole positions and scored the only non-Red Bull win of the year in Singapore.

While Leclerc concedes Ferrari’s ultimate target is to compete for regular victories, he asserts the Italian marque will do “everything” to overhaul Mercedes.

Asked about the importance of claiming the runners-up spot, Leclerc said: “Yeah, at the end, I think as Ferrari, especially coming to this year, we finished second in the Constructors last year, so the target was to try and win the Constructors this year.

“Then after the first few races we understood that this wasn’t realistic because Red Bull is in a league of their own at the moment.

“So yeah, the main target for Ferrari is to come back winning as soon as possible. Having said that, looking at this season, the best we can do is second place and we’ll do everything to achieve that.

“It’s going to be tight because with Mercedes, also McLaren but they are a bit further away in the constructors, now all three teams are super close. So it’s going to be an exciting end of the season. It’s just unfortunate that it is for the second place and not the first one.”

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 24.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day.

Hamilton, who currently occupies third in the Drivers’ standings, echoed Leclerc’s comments, admitting that Mercedes didn’t expect to be sitting second at this stage.

Having retained its ambitious ‘zeropod’ philosophy from last year, the German outfit elected to switch to a conventional bodywork concept midway through the season.

“Yes, pretty much the same for me. I think it’s exciting that we have this race, this battle at the moment,” Hamilton added.

“I think our goal was… just like them, we started off pretty poorly at the beginning of the season. Definitely didn’t expect ourselves to be second in the Constructors and to now be relatively close, particularly in the last couple of races… well, the last race and be fighting in the Constructors, I think it’s exciting for us as a team.

“And of course we want to beat them just as they want to beat us so it’s going to take a full team effort, that’s for sure.”

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