Charles Leclerc believes Ferrari was more competitive than it initially anticipated during Friday practice for Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Ferrari struggled for performance in 2020 and placed only sixth in the standings but was firmly in a tightly-congested midfield group through Friday’s sessions.
Leclerc classified only 12th, accepting he failed to extract the best from the SF21 on Softs, but new team-mate Carlos Sainz finished in fourth spot overall.
“It has been a positive day to be honest,” said Leclerc. “We maybe didn’t expect to be as competitive.
“I know it’s very early days for now but FP1 was positive on my side, FP2 less. I’ve been struggling a little bit with the car here and there and didn’t manage to finish the lap the way I wanted to.
“But overall there is a lot of work, I can feel there is a lot of motivation in the team.
“We can feel the improvements that have been made since last year, which is good for now. Tomorrow will be the day where we know exactly where we are compared to the others.”
Sainz suggested the blustery conditions “brought the field a bit together” and that across long runs “you can see clearly the Mercedes and the Red Bull are having an advantage on the rest of the field.”
But Sainz was encouraged by his progress with the SF21.
“Every lap I do with the car I get to understand it a bit better, how it behaves and how it adapts to the changing conditions,” he said.
“It takes some time, so it was important for me to have a clean Friday and complete our programme.
“Tomorrow it could be a different story again, with different conditions, especially the wind, so we need to take it step by step, building up to qualifying.”