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Leclerc 99% sure Ferrari will be worse than in 2019

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Charles Leclerc has downplayed Ferrari's chances of challenging for the Formula One title in 2020, saying he is all but certain its current car is a step down on its predecessor.

Ferrari already has confirmed it will not bring an upgrade to the two Austria events which will start the 2020 season. The Italian team's poor performance in preseason testing prompted a rethink of its car's development during the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leclerc, who scored two victories and seven pole positions in his debut campaign with the season, has predicted a difficult year for the team.

"I think it is going to be a very challenging season for us, it is definitely not going to be easy," Leclerc said. "We still have this question mark, and we still need to wait for qualifying to be sure of what we say even though we are 99 per cent sure we will be struggling more than last year."

While Leclerc has a long stay at Ferrari ahead of him, teammate Sebastian Vettel will leave the team at the end of the season.

Speaking at the same socially distanced news conference ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, Vettel admitted he had been surprised by the news in May. The four-time world champion also elaborated on why he feels Ferrari has struggled to live up to the expectations associated with its name, having failed to end the team's wait for a title which now stretches back to 2008.

"Well I think first of all you have to say that since the day I joined we've tried everything together to fight for the championship which is what we have done on several occasions.

"We have not won the championship and in that regard looking back you can say I have failed, we have failed, obviously we set out with a clear target that we wanted to achieve and the truth is we didn't. We still have this season ahead of us and given that it is such a strange season, strange start, with no fans, without people here, I think it is impossible to know exactly what will expect us, so I think it will be too soon to write everything off, but when you talk about looking back, here and there was missing a little bit.

"In the end we were never able to put the package together that was good enough until the end of the year to fight for the championship. We got close, until midway, halfway, in some years, then the gap was opening up and we were defeated quite clearly by Mercedes and Lewis in those years. In the end it is quite simple, we were not quick enough, our package wasn't quick enough, and as a team we were not as strong as Mercedes."