Mercedes enjoyed their most competitive showing of the season last time out at Barcelona as George Russell claimed his second podium finish of the season in third, while Lewis Hamilton pulled off an incredible recovery drive to fifth after picking up a first-lap puncture. 

Leclerc, who has fallen behind main title rival Max Verstappen in the world championship after retiring from the lead of the race in Spain, believes Mercedes will still be a factor in this year’s championship showdown. 

Although Russell is 36 points behind Verstappen, with Hamilton 64 points adrift, Mercedes are more upbeat about their chances after making a major breakthrough with their W13 car at Barcelona. 

And the Monegasque isn’t discounting Mercedes from springing a surprise in Monaco this weekend.

Can Leclerc break Verstappen WINNING STREAK at F1 Monaco GP?

Asked how surprising it is that Hamilton and Mercedes are yet to win this season, Leclerc replied: “Yeah of course.” 

“I mean, I believe that every team at one point stops winning, if you keep going, it’s obviously weird whenever such a dominant team struggles at the beginning of the season. 

“That’s also why I never really discarded them from the championship because I know how strong of a team they are. What they’ve shown in the last years is not by chance, it’s because they’ve got the right people and they are working in the right way. 

“They’ve had a difficult start of the season but there’s no question for me that they will be back very very soon, and as they’ve shown in Barcelona, they already did a big step forward. 

“I hope they can join us to fight for wins because this should be exciting for F! to have a three-team battle and to have George and Lewis also fighting for wins.” 

Has the time come for Ferrari to fully back Leclerc?

Red Bull made it clear who they are backing in the title fight after instructing Sergio Perez to move aside for Verstappen twice in Spain and telling the Mexican not to fight his teammate for the win. 

Ferrari have not yet used team orders on their drivers amid Carlos Sainz’s recent struggles, but Leclerc has backed his teammate to turn things around and become a factor in the fight at the front. 

“It doesn’t concern me because I know that Carlos will be back very, very quickly,” Leclerc said. “He’s a very, very strong driver, he’s been struggling maybe a little bit more maybe to adapt to this car and it fit my driving style a little bit better maybe at the beginning. 

“So I’m pretty sure Carlos will be in the fight too very, very soon, and it’s also up to me to do the right job and to bring Ferrari on top anyway.”

Asked if he thinks Ferrari needs to take the same approach as Red Bull by throwing its weight behind one driver in the title race, Leclerc said: “I don’t know to be honest. 

“I will definitely not be the one taking those types of decisions so maybe you can ask Mattia [Binotto, Ferrari team principal]! Red Bull made it clear what their intentions are and they did it very early in the season, but concerning us I don’t know. 

“I haven’t spoken about it with Mattia and I haven’t heard anything about this for now.”