Charles Leclerc fourth and Carlos Sainz seventh: this is how the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers finished the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix. The result confirms that the team is making definite progress compared to last year, which is clear if one looks at the result of this race in 2020, when the gap to the winner was more than double today’s. Qualifying had seen the Scuderia confirm its position as the third force in the field and that was translated into today’s race result, in terms of pace and tyre management. Worth noting that the team’s best performance on a technical level came at the most demanding of the tracks raced on so far this year.
Perfect race. Today was the second time Charles has finished fourth this season, but whereas in Imola that had a decidedly disappointing taste to it, as he would have easily finished second but for the race being red flagged at half distance, in Spain it was the result of his skill at the wheel, accurate tyre management, the right strategy and the team’s optimisation of the SF21’s potential. Charles produced an amazing first lap, which saw him move straight to third ahead of Valtteri Bottas. He stayed there until his first stop, at which point the Finn made full use of his car’s speed. The Scuderia achieved its aim of being the best of the rest behind the two teams fighting for the title. In fact, Charles went one better given that he finished ahead of Sergio Perez in a Red Bull.
Difficult start. Carlos Sainz paid a heavy price for a less than perfect start which saw him lose a few places. The Spaniard finished behind Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo, but still produced a solid drive, passing Esteban Ocon and fighting right down to the last lap with McLaren’s Australian driver, running a two stop strategy which meant he was able to run an aggressive race. Scuderia Ferrari picked up a total of 18 points, the second biggest haul after Imola and many more than its closest rivals, who are now just five points ahead in the classification.
Now Monaco. The World Championship will resume in a fortnight’s time with the next round, Charles’ home race taking place on Sunday 23 May, after last year’s Monaco Grand Prix was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Charles Leclerc #16
"It was a very good race. I had a good start, then went for the outside in turn 3, which worked out for us. From then on, we had a very competitive race. Our pace was strong, both on the Soft and Medium tyres. Still, P4 was the best we could achieve. I am really happy though, because from the cockpit you can feel when you do a good job and that was the case today.
As a team, we did a really good job, everything went perfectly. We see that we have made a lot of progress compared to last year, and this is credit to everyone working so hard back at our factory in Maranello.
We were quite strong in the third sector, which is very technical. Hopefully, that’s a positive sign for Monaco. Since the beginning of the season, we seem to be strong in the slow corners, so I am crossing my fingers that it will stay that way. I am really looking forward to my home race. Seeing fans there in the grandstands will be amazing and I hope to be just as competitive there."
Carlos Sainz #55
"I am not very satisfied with P7 today, to be honest. I had a poor getaway at the start and after the first corner I found myself surrounded and lost a couple of places. From then onwards though, we had a very strong pace.
Today the car was well balanced and it performed quite well with the tyres. We still lack a bit of speed on the straights, which makes us struggle for overtaking. We must work on that and I must keep working on refining some details, because today with a stronger start we could have made it to P5.
The strategy worked well, and the guys put together a couple of fast pit stops. It was a good team effort and we leave Spain with good points for the Championship. We must continue to analyse where we weren’t perfect, and push from there!"
Mattia Binotto Team Principal
"A positive result with a good points haul that sees us close the gap to those just ahead of us. Achieving that was our main aim for the weekend and we succeeded.
Charles drove an impeccable race. He was aggressive at the start and did a very good job of looking after his tyres, something that we have worked on a lot with him. Carlos lost positions at the start and that cost him a better result, but he did not lose heart and fought back, making up quite a few places.
We head home believing that we have taken a significant step forward compared to where we were in 2020. There’s still a lot of work to do to get the Scuderia back to where it should be and I was pleased to see that the whole team, both at the track and Maranello, is clearly keen to improve."