Leclerc already ‘at ease’ with SF21 after testing

Charles Leclerc says he’s already feeling more comfortable with this year’s Ferrari than he ever did with last year’s car.

The team suffered a disastrous 2021 campaign with Sebastian Vettel particularly badly hit, while Leclerc did at least manage two podium positions and battled his way to eighth in the final standings.

But even he was unhappy with the car’s balance last season, and is please and somewhat relieved to find major improvements with the SF21.

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“It is quite difficult with these conditions to compare with last year,” he said after completing his time behind the wheel in three days of pre-season testing at Bahrain International Circuit.

“Last year I was struggling quite a lot when there were warm temperatures,” he noted. “This year it feels a bit better for now, especially from the rear of the car.

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“The balance feels quite good and I’m at ease with the car,” he continued. “Let’s wait and see, but for now it feels positive.”

Leclerc went on to explain where the improvements had been made in the design of this year’s chassis.

“There’s not only been progress aerodynamically, but also on the on the rear end of the car as a whole,” he said.

©Ferrari

“It’s very difficult for us to make the difference between aero and mechanical in the balance of the car, but the fact is that I feel a bit more confident with the rear of the car.”

While Leclerc was only 10th quickest of the 18 drivers taking part on Sunday, his team mate Carlos Sainz was third in the warmer afternoon conditions.

There was also good news for Alfa Romeo which uses Ferrari power units. Kimi Raikkonen completed 166 laps, more than any other driver, and was fourth quickest.

The improvements suggest that Ferrari has bounced back on all fronts since last year’s slump, but Leclerc was wary as he pointed out that they won’t know how they stand for sure until everything comes together at the first race weekend of the season Bahrain at the end of the month.

“I think we’ll only know at the first qualifying whenever we put everything together,” he said. “But the first data shows that what we have measured on track is similar to the gains we thought we did at the factory.”

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