McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is excited and ready for the battle ahead with Ferrari this season at the head of the midfield.
In 2020, McLaren continued their recovery up the order, ending the season P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, while for Ferrari it was a story of worrying decline as the Maranello outfit limped to P6 in the standings.
The current season though has begun on a positive note for both outfits. Lando Norris topped the midfield to finish P4 in Bahrain, with the gap to Red Bull and Mercedes noticeably reduced compared to recent seasons, while Charles Leclerc headed a double-points finish for Ferrari in P6.
The early indications are that the duo could be on course for a real battle over P3 across the 23 races, and Seidl is more than ready for it.
“Definitely with everything I’ve seen at the [pre-season] test and also here on Friday and Saturday and today, shows that Ferrari have made a big step forward compared to last year, which is not unexpected,” he said, as quoted by the Formula 1 website.
“We said we never underestimated the ability of a team like Ferrari with all their history and all their resources and experience to come back quickly, so it’s no surprise, and they have two great drivers as well.
“[We’re] simply looking forward to battle with Ferrari again this year, how they play out. It’s simply too early to say but yeah, definitely looking forward to battling this great team.”
Norris believes that Ferrari have the edge in qualifying trim, but come race day McLaren are able to fight back.
“I overtook Charles five, six, seven laps into the race rather than at the start, that was because we just had a better car and some better speed,” he is quoted by RaceFans.net.
“So it’s a bit of both, 50-50 between us. But it’s not easy and I want it to be easy. So if we do better on Saturday, then I’ll be happy.
“Saturdays are difficult for us, I think, a little bit like last year. We’re maybe a little bit more comfortable on Sundays than Saturdays.”
Norris is keen to see how McLaren stack up against Ferrari at different circuits on the calendar, believing Bahrain is a venue that suits his team well.
“We’re at race one and it’s Bahrain, a track normally we do quite well at. So we need to be at some different tracks a little bit more often, we have to see after some more tracks where we really stand,” he explained.
“Now I can get to the front and just maintain my tyres and everything. But if I had to race a little bit more, maybe it would have been a little bit more difficult and a different story.
“So I don’t want to say anything yet. I don’t want to say anything which isn’t true. But we had a good Sunday, the car was good, so I can be positive about that.”
With Bahrain now done and holding a prominent spot in the Formula 1 history books, all focus now shifts to the Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, one of two home races for Ferrari this season.
Leclerc had a strong showing for Ferrari at the iconic venue last season, crossing the line P5, though Sebastian Vettel was unable to score points in the other Ferrari.
McLaren were able to secure a double-points finish though as Carlos Sainz, now Leclerc’s team-mate at Ferrari, finished P7 ahead of Norris.