Leclerc expects Mercedes to 'definitely be there next year'

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Ferrari's Charles Leclerc believes Mercedes will continue its upswing next season and join the Scuderia and Red Bull to form a three-way fight for F1's world title.

Mercedes' 2022 campaign was undermined by the chronic porpoising of its new-generation car, a complicated aerodynamic phenomenon that emerged in the wake of F1's regulation change.

The Brackley squad worked tirelessly to first understand and then attempt to solve its W13's issues, often taking a step forward at one track only to move two steps backward at another.

But eventually, Mercedes' engineers were able to regain control of their bouncing bronco silver arrow although way too late in the season to play a significant role in the championship.

Nevertheless, George Russell's dominant win in the penultimate round of the championship in Brazil was a worthy reward for the team's efforts, and one that suggests – in Leclerc's view - that Mercedes will be a force to be reckoned with once again in 2023.

"I do believe that Mercedes will be in the fight," said the Monegasque at the FIA's recent prize-giving event.

"Another team? I haven't seen signs yet maybe to believe that another team will join the top three.

"But Mercedes will with a very strong car. We've seen how much they've improved from the first race to the last race.

"I think they understood what they did wrong, and this is normally the sign that it will go better.

"So hopefully it will be a three-team fight next year."

Ferrari will head into next year with a new team boss – Fred Vasseur – at the helm of the Scuderia, and hopefully with an operation better prepared to manage its drivers' strategies on race day.

As for next year's contender, Leclerc revealed that the Italian outfit has been working overtime in the simulator to learn from this year's machine in order to field a stronger car in 2023.

And the five-time Grand Prix winner is confident that Ferrari's hard work will bear fruit.

"I am confident because we are doing quite a lot of work at the simulator," he said.

"We’ve been working extremely hard in the past year to try and understand what were the weaknesses of this car in order to get better for next year’s car.

"I also think that after the 2021 season, where we've been working very well and reset it a little bit from 2020 that was a difficult season, we have been working in the right direction and in the right way.

"This gives me the confidence that we'll have a competitive car for 2023."

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