Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc discusses progress on the team’s SF21, and improvements to the engine; Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen adds.

The new SF21 launched last Wednesday, featuring a number of intriguing aerodynamic developments such as a unique nose as the team make an effort to return to their level of performance in 2019 and years prior – before a technical directive clarifying rules regarding power units relegated them to the mid-field.

Leclerc says the new car shows “promising signs” in F1 testing at Bahrain, but acknowledges that times in noncompetitive sessions can be misleading. Therefore, the Monegasque says, qualifying in round one will be the ultimate indicator of their 2021 performance. “The impressions were good again,” he said in press conference.

“It’s very difficult to make a comparison with last year for now, and it’s all relative to the others how much they improved compared to us. There are some promising signs, but we can’t know until the first qualifying,” Leclerc admitted.

One such promising sign, Leclerc says, is a correlation between the team’s prior testing and the on-track result pertaining to the rear of the car, where Ferrari sought to improve in 2021. “I think there’s been some work on that, and the first data that we have seen on track are correlating with the ones that we’ve had back in Maranello before this tests so this is already positive,” the Monegasque said.

“Then again to give a feedback or a feeling on the car now in those conditions is very very difficult, but to see that we made some work on it, and that the data is correlating well with the ones that we have in Maranello, is already a good sign on that,” Leclerc added.

The biggest focus of Ferrari’s development in the off-season was on a new engine, after 2020’s underpowered car delivered them a 40-year low of sixth place in the constructors’ championship standings. Leclerc says the new power unit “feels quite good,” but that making direct comparisons is difficult in testing.

“Everything feels quite good. But again, it’s very difficult to comment now, nobody’s pushing everything to its limit, especially in those conditions. So, for now it’s early days but everything feels good and as I said, stacks up with what we expected,” Leclerc shared, as Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen stated that the engine had improved.

The Finn will be using the new Ferrari PU in the back of his Alfa Romeo C41, and says that the new engine could prove “helpful” for the team. “I am sure they’ve made progress, and it’s better, but then you would expect that the other manufacturers have also improved, but yeah, comparing what we had last year it is in a better position and we’ll have to wait to see where it is once the racing stars, but it’s definitely helpful for us,” Raikkonen said.

While Haas couldn’t make a direct comparison, but team boss Guenther Steiner felt optimistic and stressed on having faith at Ferrari for the progress. From the Bahrain running, they couldn’t gather full data to understand how much gains have been made.

Here’s what everyone said after Day 2 of Bahrain F1 Test