Charles Leclerc said he feels good after a promising Friday as Ferrari tries to get back on top after a tough 2020 season.
Ferrari already showed some promising improvements both in FP1 and FP2. Leclerc finished fifth in Free Practice 1, just more than half a second off Max Verstappen. In Free Practice 2, it was Carlos Sainz who had more pace, putting his SF21 in P4 between the two Mercedes.
Despite concluding FP2 in P12 after a mistake in turn four during his flying lap, the Monegasque felt confident and said that he is pleased with what he had seen from Ferrari on Friday.
“Today has been a positive day, to be honest,” said Leclerc. “We maybe didn’t expect to be as competitive, even though it’s still very early days for now. But FP1 was positive on my side, FP2 a bit less; I’ve been struggling a little bit with the car here and there and didn’t manage to finish the lap I wanted to.
“But overall there is a lot of work [that’s been done]. I can feel there is a lot of motivation in the team, and I can see also, and we can feel, the improvements that have been made since last year, which is good for now. Then tomorrow will be the day when we know exactly where we are compared to the others.
“It is very, very tight and I think qualifying tomorrow is going to be very, very tight,” added Leclerc, “but this is exciting, this is what we like as drivers, to try and make the last difference on track – even though I still believe that Mercedes and Red Bull are still quite a lot in front, the midfield will be very, very tight.”
Even though Sainz set the fastest lap for the Scuderia, he said he is still struggling a bit, especially due to the wind. Moreover, he does not think he will be on the same level as his teammate, at least at the beginning of the season.
“It’s tricky,” said Sainz at the end of Friday. “You need to stay mentally disciplined because you don’t want to give too many comments regarding balance because you know you are also probably under-driving a bit.
“When you switch teams and cars, as soon as the conditions change, you don’t know how the car is going to react, so you are always under-driving a bit. You don’t want to do stupid mistakes and you want to stay a bit below the limit of the car because you don’t know how the car is going to react.
“That’s why I always say you need races, you need experience, you need to go through different conditions, to know how the car reacts to the wind, to the temperatures and build a core, a base of experience to know then how to adapt to the conditions… The trick here is let the sessions go by, let the experience build, and be patient.”