Leclerc admits he will 'always associate' Suzuka with Bianchi death

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Charles Leclerc admits he will "always associate" the Japanese Grand Prix with the death of his godfather Jules Bianchi.

This weekend marks five years since the crash which left the Frenchman with the severe head injuries he would ultimately succumb to the following July.

And though it is the challenge of Suzuka that makes this race one of the favourites among drivers, it is that moment with Leclerc admits will overshadow everything else.

“Japan is a very special place for us to race, particularly because of the local fans, they are so passionate and always show us a lot of support, which makes the experience there so unique," the Monegasque said in Ferrari's race preview.

"It was a difficult weekend for me last year, being in Suzuka for the first time since Jules’ accident. Obviously, it is a very sad memory that I will always associate with this Grand Prix.

"The track itself is very technical and demanding, it is one of the best to drive on in terms of its layout. It features high-speed straights mixed with various corner combinations and the hairpin, all of which make it the iconic circuit that it is.

"It has different characteristics to the last few tracks we have raced on, so we will see how our recent developments will work there, especially in terms of the aerodynamics.”

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Indeed, Suzuka is going to be the biggest test of Ferrari's progress since Singapore, with the long-radius corners one of the key weaknesses before the summer break.

And team boss Mattia Binotto realises the challenge that awaits to end Mercedes' five-year unbeaten run in Japan.

“Our performance level was good in Sochi, which is how we managed to take our fourth straight pole position, but we know that in order to be at the front in Japan, every aspect of our work must be perfect," he said.

"That’s the way we are going to approach the race in Suzuka, trying to extract all the available performance from the car package. If we can do that, then we hope to be able to be as competitive as we have been in recent races.

"Sebastian and Charles both adore this circuit. There is much that is special about it, from the sequence of corners in the first sector, to the incredible reception we get from the fans all weekend long. We hope they will be able to enjoy a thrilling race weekend.”