Charles Leclerc believes it is achievable for Ferrari to be “just behind” Mercedes and Red Bull this season.
Before a dismal 2020 campaign, a place in the top three teams would have been somewhere close to guaranteed for the Scuderia.
But no such status can be taken for granted any longer, certainly not after finishing sixth in last season’s Constructors’ World Championship standings.
The signs, however, suggest that was a nadir for Ferrari, given how they have improved their engine this year, which was borne out by finishing positions of P6 for Leclerc and, on his debut with the team, P8 for Carlos Sainz.
It will be far from easy for Ferrari to climb back above all of McLaren, Aston Martin and Alpine in the space of one campaign, yet Leclerc thinks it is feasible for them to get onto the heels of the top two.
“I think a realistic goal for this year is to be just behind Red Bull and Mercedes,” said Leclerc during his pre-race press conference for the Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
“Realistically, I think it will be very difficult to be able to fight with them. We are too far behind for now but we are in the fight with four, five other teams for third place in the Constructors’ so it will be a tight fight, but if we do everything perfect it’s reachable.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) April 15, 2021
Besides the power unit, Leclerc thinks the Ferrari SF21 is an improvement in every area compared to its troublesome predecessor.
“It is a significant step forward,” added the 23-year-old from Monaco. “We saw in Bahrain we had a better progression compared to the other teams from last year to this year, so this is positive. But on the other hand, we are still not fighting where we want to be fighting.
“We are putting all our efforts to try and come back to where we want to be, which is to fight for wins. If you compare last year to this year, we’ve done a good job and we just need to keep working like this.
“It’s an overall improvement. The power feels better, the balance in the corners and the actual grip of the car feels better, so it’s overall – it’s not only one thing in particular but it’s just the whole package that feels better. This is positive for the future.”