Ferrari and McLaren expect to fight for positions behind the untouchable two teams Mercedes and Red Bull this year and are aware that Ferrari has recovered after a disastrous 2020 in which they finished sixth in the constructors ’standings.
Ferrari had its worst season in 40 years last year, but despite the lack of speed of their SF1000 Leclerc managed to finish eighth in the drivers’ standings and achieve two podiums.
Leclerc qualified in fourth place in the first race of the new season in Bahrain, four places ahead of Sainz, and in the race Leclerc and Sainz finished sixth and eighth while Norris and Ricciardo finished fourth and seventh for McLaren.
McLaren F1 team boss Andreas Seidl says he is not surprised by Ferrari’s return after a tough last season and is looking forward to a fight with their old rivals.
“With everything we saw in the pre-season tests, but also in the first race, we can say that Ferrari has made a big step forward compared to last year which is not unexpected,” Seidl said.
“We said we never underestimate the ability of a team like Ferrari with all the history, resources and experience they have so it’s no surprise. And they have two great drivers.”
“We’re looking forward to a fight with Ferrari again this year. It’s too early to say how that fight will end, but yes, we’re definitely looking forward to fighting that great team.”
After two years at McLaren, Sainz switched to Ferrari in 2021 and says he could see their progress this year compared to 2020.
“It’s encouraging because I remember overtaking Charles quite easily in McLaren last year so I remember how big the difference was between McLaren and Ferrari and how close I was to overtaking Ricciardo at the end [of 2021 race – 1,096 s],” said Sainz.
“I think I had a much better pace than Daniel at the end of the race as I caught up with him with more than half a second per lap so those are positive signs.”
“We’ve made a big step forward from last year and now it’s a matter of detail, hard work and continued improvement.”
“I’m encouraged and happy with what I saw in today’s race. I’m happy with the feeling for the car in the first race and this is a positive start.”
Leclerc added that he is happy with Ferrari’s pace compared to the same track last year and believes they did a great job catching with McLaren who finished third in the standings last year and who hold third place again this year after one race.
“Yeah, if you look at where we were in the same place last year this is good progress,” Leclerc said.
“Sure we want to fight for wins very, very fast, but realistically and honestly we’ve done a great job of catching and being close to McLaren and fighting them in the race so we’ll see how that fight continues in Imola.”