Charles Leclerc admits he cannot be completely satisfied with a sixth-place finish in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, although it is clear Scuderia Ferrari are in a much better place than they were in 2020.
Starting from fourth on the grid after an excellent Qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday, Leclerc jumped to third at the start but was quickly dispatched by Valtteri Bottas.
Leclerc also found himself displaced by Lando Norris and, late in the day, Sergio Pérez to finish sixth, but the Monegasque racer says it was a positive start to the 2021 season.
“It’s a nice start and a good feeling and I am reasonably happy with the race today,” said Leclerc. “I cannot be extremely satisfied with P6, but at the end of the day we need to look at where we were last year and it’s clear we have made good progress.
“I had a very good start. I found myself in third place and managed my tyres quite well in the first stint. I think there was probably a bit more left in them, but we had to stop and try to push the others towards different strategies, which was the right thing to do, but it might have cost us a little bit in terms of pace at the end of the race.
“All in all, it was a good race and a positive weekend, and we made a good step forward compared to last season. We’re still not where we want to be, so we need to keep working and pushing very hard to get better in the coming races.”
“It was very important for me to complete all the laps” – Carlos Sainz Jr.
Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. dropped a few places at the start but was able to recover to finish eighth on Sunday, with the Spaniard enjoying his first race outing with Ferrari following his move from the McLaren F1 Team during the off-season.
Sainz admitted he made a cautious start on Sunday, which meant he did drop a few positions in the order, but he was able to regroup, learn more about the SF21 and move forward to finish just over a second behind the driver who replaced him at McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo.
“I think we had a solid first race today,” said Sainz. “It was very important for me to complete all the laps and keep building experience with the car. Maybe that’s the reason why this time I didn’t take too many risks at the start and it cost me a couple of places.
“I was curious to see how the car reacted in the dirty air of a race start and I knew I would have the opportunity to fight back once I got into my rhythm. Once the race settled a bit, I started pushing lap by lap and I think we showed a very strong pace with the Medium tyre and especially with the Hard tyre during the last stint. I also managed to pull of some good overtakes.
“Today I’m happy for the work we have been doing the entire weekend. Ferrari wants more. I want more. But it has been a promising start and we’ll keep pushing to get there.”