Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc admits the 2022 pre-season ranks right up there as one of the smoothest in his career.
With all-new regulations coming into play for the 2022 campaign, there were plenty of reports that Ferrari were going brave and extreme with both the F1-75 and the upgraded power unit as they push to return to winning ways.
Of course, with such risk can come reliability issues, as well as performance problems if the extreme innovations do not go to plan.
But for Ferrari, neither has been the case so far as the Italian outfit pushed through both the Barcelona and Bahrain tests with minimal interruption, consistently featuring in the upper echelons of the timings.
That has led to many identifying Ferrari as the favourites for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Ferrari have been playing down such claims, but Leclerc could not deny his and Ferrari’s pre-season was smooth sailing.
“It’s definitely one of the smoothest preparations I’ve had [before] a season,” he said, as per the Formula 1 website.
“No major issues and especially on such a new project you always expect to find some barriers on the way, and for now, apart from ‘porpoising’ that is still an issue in some conditions, it’s been quite smooth and we have managed to just keep improving.
“For now, I honestly have no idea where we are. But it’s definitely been a smoother six days of testing.”
Mercedes arrived in Bahrain with a heavily upgraded W13, one that featured significantly modified sidepods reduced to a very narrow inlet.
Red Bull, meanwhile, made their own adjustments to the sidepods, rolling out a much more sculpted design on the last day.
Leclerc had said previously he believes both teams were hiding performance in Bahrain, while the Monegasque driver now also noted many teams popped up with competitive stints across the test.
“For now, it’s very difficult [to predict] and that’s why I think we need to really stay cautious,” said Leclerc of Ferrari’s positioning heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“As we’ve seen, Red Bull have quite a new package, Mercedes had a completely new car and didn’t show their potential, and actually everyone seems to be quite close at some point or another.”
Rather than focusing on the times being set, Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz explained reliability had been the “priority” that set up Ferrari for a smooth and productive test.
“On reliability so far, I think we’ve got it really right to be able to run all the six days of testing without creating a red flag, without having a single issue on track,” the Spaniard stated.
“I think this is priority number one that has allowed us to complete our test programme and arrive to the first race as ready as we can be.”
New Ferrari trickier to drive in Bahrain heat
Carlos Sainz feels the Ferrari is trickier to drive in the Bahrain heat.