Ferrari propelled itself into third in the constructors’ championship after a strong Mexico City Grand Prix.
The Italian outfit sits 13.5 points clear of McLaren with four rounds remaining, with its recent engine upgrade seemingly tipping the balance of power.
McLaren has often excelled in high-speed corners, relative to the Ferrari, and with Interlagos’ first and final sector being dependent on engine power, Leclerc predicts the Woking squad will be ahead this weekend.
“It is very, very close,” Leclerc said on Thursday. “We expect McLaren to be strong if anything a bit stronger than us here. We really have to focus on ourselves, try to do absolutely everything perfect until the end of the season but it’s true that we are also in a good time for the team.
“We’ve progressed quite well in the last five, six races which is good and we caught back the distance that was between McLaren and us. It’s looking good but we need to keep working at 100 percent.”
While the attention is on Ferrari and McLaren for the battle for third, it was AlphaTauri who was the third-best team in Mexico as Pierre Gasly finished a comfortable fourth.
Leclerc admitted that Ferrari was surprised by AlphaTauri’s pace and is sure it will be a threat again this weekend.
“They were actually very quick and we expect them to be very strong here too but it’s true that they are also a bit further behind in the teams’ championship but we try not to focus too much on others,” Leclerc added.
“I think it’s very important for us to focus on ourselves and to try and maximise our potential.”
Teammate Carlos Sainz revealed that Ferrari’s simulation tools show that McLaren is likely to be ahead this weekend but expects the margin to be no more than half a tenth of a second.
“Our numbers say so, that’s why Charles I guess mentioned it because we have our simulations and expectations from the sims and due to characteristics and all that, we put them something like half a tenth in front of us, not more than that,” he explained.
“Now is this simulation as precise as telling it is half a tenth, obviously not, it could be a tenth here or a tenth there, up or down. It’s going to be tight for sure.
“I think it just makes it more exciting and obviously with the podium of Gasly here in ‘19, AlphaTauri will be in the mix and they will also be there.”