Carlos Sainz Jr. admitted it was important for him to learn more about the SF21 on a track that was not the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday, with the Spaniard putting in a good number of laps around the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
Sainz’s previous running for Scuderia Ferrari in their 2021 car had all been in Bahrain, so practice for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was something different for the Spaniard. Across the two sessions, he completed fifty-six laps.
The former McLaren F1 Team racer ended sixth, just over three-tenths of a second off the best overall time, in the first practice on Friday, and was an impressive fourth in the afternoon, just 0.283 seconds away from Valtteri Bottas in first place.
“It was an important day for me as I was looking forward to driving the car for the first time somewhere other than Bahrain,” said Sainz. “The different corners, tarmac, temperatures, etc. made it an interesting day for sure.
“It seems we could be a bit more competitive this weekend and, in general, the feeling with the car was positive as the conditions suits us better. You can feel some more grip and I am enjoying it out there, building up the confidence lap by lap trying to find the limit around the entire track.
“I’m not quite there yet, but today was a good start to the weekend and we still have FP3 to fine tune everything ahead of Qualifying tomorrow.”
“It’s only tomorrow that we will find out the pecking order” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Charles Leclerc also felt it was a strong day for Ferrari on Friday, even though his day ended with a crash at Rivazza late in the afternoon session.
Leclerc felt comfortable behind the wheel of the SF21 almost as soon as he hit the track on Friday morning, with the Monegasque ending the first session with the fourth fastest time despite losing track time due to technical issues.
He apologised to his mechanics for his session ending crash in the afternoon, with the front right suspension taking the brunt of the impact, but he had done enough before that to place fifth in the overall standings to give the team confidence for the rest of the weekend.
“This was definitely a good day, despite the time lost in the first session and the incident just at the end of the second one,” said Leclerc. “The car is quick, the balance is good and I felt at ease immediately. Of course, it’s only tomorrow that we will find out the pecking order, because maybe someone hasn’t shown their full potential.
“This afternoon, I made a mistake while pushing flat out in race trim. I’m sorry for the guys but at least there were only two minutes to go. I was pleased with my quick lap: the time that was cancelled because of a couple of centimetres would have been quickest overall and even over a long run I think we have found a good balance.
“The track is really great and I can’t wait to get back in the car tomorrow for qualifying, when I think a good result can be within our grasp.”