Charles Leclerc will start at the back of the grid for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix after Scuderia Ferrari opted to change to a new engine, one outside of his allocation for the season.
Regardless of where he qualifies on Saturday at the Sochi Autodrom, the Monegasque racer knows he will have a tough task on his hands to score points on Sunday, although the hint of rain gives him some hope that he will be able to make up some ground and bring home a top ten finish for the team.
Leclerc says the update is more aimed at gathering data for the 2022 season and doing the change this early into the season enables Ferrari to get as much information about it between now and the end of the season in preparation for next year.
“It’s not impossible to overtake at this track, so I’m ready to go on the attack,” said Leclerc. “Also, the forecast is for rain maybe on Sunday, which could also produce an unpredictable and fun race. Obviously, our main rivals will be able to make the most of the fact I have a penalty.
“But apart from third place in the championship, I think our progress is clear to see. By Monza, the fourteenth race of the season, we already scored more points than we did last year after we had done three more races and we can be pleased about that. Also, as a team, we have come close to winning on at least two occasions, even if we didn’t quite make it.
“I believe every improvement is going in the right direction. But we have not introduced the update for this race because we think it will change the hierarchy among the teams. It is mainly aimed at 2022. We have to acquire data and doing so at a race weekend is the best way to ensure it’s as accurate as possible.”
“I will try and fight at the front in this race” – Carlos Sainz Jr.
Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. says the first sector at Sochi will likely be Ferrari’s weakness this weekend, but he hopes the other two sectors are better suited to the SF21.
Sainz will not take a penalty as Ferrari have opted to change the engine in only one of the cars for this weekend, but he is expecting a penalty to come his way later in the year when he gets the chance of trying out the new power unit.
“I think that, compared to our main rivals, we will struggle in the first sector, which is the quickest one,” said Sainz. “But I expect we can be equal in the second and maybe even better than them in the last one. If that’s the case, then I think we can aim at doing well in Sochi.
“We talked about it looking at all the possible options. The driver most at risk in terms of reliability of the power unit was Charles after what happened in the Hungarian Grand Prix and so it was right that he should get it.
“I will try and fight at the front in this race, hoping that my team-mate can have a nice climb up the order. As for when I will have the update, we have not yet decided. We have to work out at which track it will be least disadvantageous to make the change and start from the back.”
Sainz says he still believes his move to Ferrari from the McLaren F1 Team was the right one, even when Daniel Ricciardo gave his former team a victory last time out in the Italian Grand Prix, a result that moves McLaren ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.
“I believe a hundred percent in my decision,” said Sainz. “We could have also won at least a couple of times, while they made the most of the opportunity that came up at the last race.
“I made my decision not based on one win, but on the entire project and I still believe that I am in the best team when thinking about the new era that Formula 1 will enter next season.”