After a year to forget in 2020, Scuderia Ferrari are looking to bounce back in 2021 with the new driver pairing of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc.
In the opening session of the day at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the team completed the practice on soft compound tyres for a total of 27 laps between the two cars. Leclerc set a time good enough for the fifth fastest time, whilst Sainz finished in eight place on his Ferrari debut.
The second session of the day saw the team working through their qualifying set up before switching focus to their race trim. With practice sessions reduced to 60 minutes from the previous 90 minutes, the evening session in Bahrain became even more important as it mirrors the unique conditions for qualifying and the race.
Both drivers run different programmes to gather as much data as possible as Sainz took fourth place in the session on soft tyres. There was frustration for Leclerc who ran in to traffic on his simulation run, finishing down in twelfth place.
After running through their simulations the drivers worked on evaluating tyres to assess the different strategies for qualifying and the race. Sainz completed 26 laps on the Medium compoind whilst Leclerc completed the same amount on soft tyres.
“Today we had very different conditions in the first and second sessions,” explained Sainz. “In Free Practice 1 everything felt fairly normal and going into Free Practice 2 the conditions changed quite a bit in terms of wind and obviously track temperature. It made the car and the balance trickier, and it brought the field together. We were surprised with how tight the short runs were in terms of performance.
“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. 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.”
Leclerc predicts close qualifying session
Charles Leclerc echoed his team-mates thoughts whilst commenting on missed opportunities in the second session due to hitting the traffic during his run.
“Today has been a good day and maybe we didn’t expect to be as competitive,” said Leclerc. “Though it’s still very early days for now, Free Practice 1 was positive on my side and Free Practice 2 a bit less.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit with the car rear end and didn’t manage to finish the lap I wanted to, but even though overall there’s still a lot of work to do I can feel there’s a lot of motivation in the team and I can see and feel the improvements that have been made since last year. This is good for now.
Leclerc is already looking to tomorrow where he believes it could be an exciting qualifying session due to the close nature of the times at the top.
“Tomorrow will be the day when we’ll know exactly where we are compared to the others as this is when everyone will push to the limit; everything will be clear in qualifying.
“Even though we expect the usual cars will still be at the front, the field is very very tight and I think qualifying tomorrow will be very tight too but this is exciting and this is what we like as drivers to try and make the difference.”