Ferrari have made 'significant step forward' in 2021, says Charles Leclerc as F1 comeback begins

15 April 2021, 14:37 | Updated: 15 April 2021, 15:45

Charles Leclerc says Ferrari's F1 comeback is in full swing after taking a "significant step forward" with their 2021 car - but insists the team won't let a close battle for third distract them from their big long-term goal.

Ferrari arrive for the Emilia-Romagna GP for one of their two Italian home races on the back of an encouraging start to the season in Bahrain, with both Leclerc and new team-mate Carlos Sainz scoring points in the top 10. While that may not sound like too big an achievement for F1's most successful team, it was a much-needed early-season boost after finishing sixth in 2020 - the Scuderia's worst season in four decades.

  • F1 drivers face strict track limit rules at Imola
  • Good start, bad start for the 2021 season
  • When to watch the Emilia-Romagna GP on Sky F1
  • Mark Hughes on McLaren vs Ferrari

"It is a step forward. A significant step forward," said Leclerc as he spoke about Ferrari's new and improved SF1000 car.

"We've seen in Bahrain we've made a better progression compared to the other teams from last year to this year, so this is positive.

"It's an overall improvement. The power feels better. The balance in the corners and the actual grip feels better. It's not one thing in particular, it's that the whole package feels better and this is positive for the future."

Ferrari's strong start has seen them emerge as one of the favourites for third, along with McLaren - who took that position last year and were the other midfield team to score points with both cars in the season-opener.

"I think the realistic goal for this year would be to be just behind Red Bull and Mercedes," Leclerc stated. "Realistically I think it's going to be very difficult to fight with them, we are too far behind for now but we are in the fight with four or five other teams for third place in the constructors'.

"It's going to be a tight fight but if we do everything perfect I think it's reachable."

Leclerc explains Ferrari's long-term mentality

Leclerc is certainly optimistic about Ferrari's 2021 but remains adamant that both he and the team want much more than battling in the midfield.

"We are still not fighting where we want to be fighting, we are putting all of our efforts into getting back where we want to be which is fighting for wins," said the Monegasque.

But with fighting for wins seemingly impossible this year, Ferrari, like many other teams, are left in the tricky position of trying to progress this year, while keeping their attention fixed on a major car and rules overhaul in 2022.

Ferrari have openly admitted that more of their focus is on next year - something Leclerc is perfectly happy with.

"I think the mentality is right, of this I have no doubt and I think we are working well," he explained. "The start of 2020 was difficult when we realised the reality of things and that we were really a step down of 2019. But we went through this process in a good way I think and we started to work to reconstruct the whole project.

"I don't think we are getting carried away by the fight [for third] there will be during the season, I think everyone is well aware there is much more to gain to prepare for 2022 in the right way because these new cars will last for much longer, many years after 2022.

"We need to be ready for that. I think we are getting ready as we should for these changes so I'm not worried about that."