Fourth-quickest Ferrari “didn’t expect to be this competitive”, says Leclerc

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says Ferrari did not expect to have such a strong start to the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend after his new team mate set the fourth-quickest time in Friday practice.

Carlos Sainz Jnr ended Friday’s running within three-tenths of a second of pace-setter Max Verstappen in his Red Bull. The pair were separated by McLaren’s Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes.

“Today has been a positive day” said Leclerc, who 24 hours earlier predicted a “very difficult” season for Ferrari.

“We maybe didn’t expect to be as competitive even though it’s still very early days for now. But first practice was positive on my side, second practice a bit less. I’ve been struggling a little bit with the car here and there and then didn’t manage to finish the lap I wanted to.

“Overall there is a lot of work [to do]. I can feel there’s a lot of motivation into 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. And then tomorrow will be the day where we’ll know exactly where we are compared to to the others.”

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Leclerc predicted qualifying will be “very, very tight”.

“But this is exciting,” he continued, “this is what we like as drivers, to try and make the last difference on-track being us drivers. Even though I still believe that Mercedes and and Red Bull are still quite a lot in front, the midfield will be very tight.”

Speculation surrounds the progress Ferrari has made over the winter with its power unit, which was a significant weakness in last year’s car. Leclerc confirmed Ferrari are yet to run their new power unit at full power.

“We haven’t run flat out yet but I don’t think it’s the case for anybody in the paddock today,” he said. “So we don’t know how much they are sandbagging. We’ll be all clear tomorrow in qualifying.”

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on “Fourth-quickest Ferrari “didn’t expect to be this competitive”, says Leclerc”

  1. Can’t wait for quali to reveal the revised pecking order!

    1. I’d be shocked if it isn’t an extension of the end of last season with a few tweaks

      1. @peartree Same. Probably only Alpha Tauri to have made a significant step (if that).

  2. I wouldn’t rule Ferrari out of a successful quali yet. Last year was a different year, the engine was not bad actually – more of inefficient due to the usage ban of there gimmick. The leap is possible.

  3. this is a Ferrari track lets not forget the past few years, if they got the speed back , im sure they can pull podium here. I dont believe RedBull is that competitive as all the media pushes for….but we will see.

    Reply moderated
  4. Charles didn’t look too good in the colder conditions of FP2. Carlos was outpacing him from the beginning of the session and also seemed to have better long run pace on the Softs, but we’ll see what the rest of the weekend has to offer.
    Ferrari are at least fighting with McLaren and Alpha Tauri for ‘best of the rest’, if not ahead of the other two. RB and Mercedes seem to be a little too fast for them, but that’s O.K., you can’t expect the team to claw back such big of a gap.
    From what I’ve seen so far, Ferrari seemed to also run more fuel than the McLarens (judging by their times in S2) and Alpha Tauris. I expect Leclerc and Sainz to lock out the 3rd row tomorrow and if either Perez or Bottas don’t deliver a decent lap in Q3, one of the Ferraris might sneak onto the 2nd row.

    1. I didn’t think i would ever “defend” Bottas, but if he’s as far back as 5th in qualifying this weekend then Lewis will probably be 3rd or 4th. They were pretty close in quali last year.

      1. I disagree, when they’re in perfect cars they’re very close but when the cars are a bit iffy as they appear to be this year, that’s where the difference between the two becomes more apparant and VB drops off

        Reply moderated
    2. Well he acknowledged that. But on his flying lap he had traffic which Ferrari confirmed . E good thing is Carlos has adapted to car and the car is much better than last year .

  5. Would be great if there is real competition this year, but still not sure about all the sandbagging going on.
    Most weren’t running engines at full power and still trying to understand the changes to the rear handling.

    Reply moderated

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