Charles Leclerc said he would change his approach to a race weekend after Portimao, and at the Spanish GP he was already seeing benefits.
The race last time out in Portugal was not a problem for Leclerc, the part of his weekend that he was disappointed in was his performances on Friday and Saturday.
So now he wants to try and build up his race weekend step by step rather than giving it full beans from the very start, and in Barcelona that approach was paying off as he ended FP2 in P3, just 0.165s slower than Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in P1.
“It was a very good, clean day, I changed my approach a little bit to Portimao, taking it step by step and I’m just driving a lot better and in a better place with the car,” he told reporters.
“So hopefully we can keep building on that strong first day for tomorrow.
“Tomorrow will be important for qualifying especially on this track, I think we know where to improve so let’s see now if we do a good job by just getting better at where we are struggling.”
At this stage last year it was also Hamilton who topped FP2 at the 2020 Spanish GP, but the gap between him and Leclerc has shrunk considerably from the 1.2s deficit that it was.
And so this is a clear sign of Ferrari’s progression, something which is keeping motivation within the team high.
“Last year I think we were struggling quite a lot here, and this year the car just feels in a much better place so this is great,” Leclerc explained.
“It’s especially good for the whole team back at the factory who keep working, when they finally see the numbers and see how much better we are compared to last year.
“It motivates everyone, so it feels good in the car and hopefully tomorrow will be a good day.
“I think if we can be right behind Mercedes and Red Bull then that is the best we could hope for for now, if there is a good surprise even more than that it will be welcome, but I think the objective will be to be just behind them.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) May 7, 2021
Carlos Sainz still has work to do in the other Ferrari after feeling the balance of his SF21 was not quite there in FP2.
And though the Spaniard does expect that he and Leclerc will “converge more” on Saturday, the tightness of the grid means that he is not yet banking on a Q3 appearance.
“Since FP1 we saw the track had a lot of grip, helping to get the balance a bit better and that rear end under control,” he said.
“Both Charles and I seem quite happy, for me in FP2 the balance was a bit getting away from us and I was struggling more than him, in the last sector he looked particularly quick. I think he went purple even which is a good sign, because there aren’t many straights there but a lot of corners.
“For tomorrow we should converge a bit more, don’t get me wrong it’s tight out there. There is the two AlphaTauris, two Alpines that today in the end did their best lap and all of a sudden they are both in front, the two Red Bulls should be there but today somehow they were behind.
“So you start to add it up and it’s not like Q3 is going to be easy tomorrow because you have these three or four teams in the same tenth nearly.”