Ever since it was announced in 2020 that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving Scuderia Ferrari, the spotlight shone brightly on much-loved Monegasque racer Charles Leclerc. The talismanic racer took the Tifosi to his heart and vice versa from the moment he wore the Ferrari red. Clearly, Leclerc is desperate to return Ferrari to the top where he feels they belong. Therefore, the racer is rightly encouraged by the form shown by the Prancing Horse in 2021 having described the season as “better than expected."
As shown through comments published on racingnews365.com, Charles Leclerc spoke to select media about the transition phase still in place at Scuderia Ferrari and his joy at seeing the team’s progress which has made both him and his teammate Carlos Sainz competitive on track. The form has been such that both drivers have enjoyed racing near the front. The competitive nature of Ferrari has been such, that Charles Leclerc finds himself behind his teammate Carlos Sainz in the Drivers’ Championship.
In his first season with Scuderia Ferrari, since leaving McLaren, Carlos Sainz sits in the lofty position of 6th in the standings ahead of his more illustrious teammate who is just behind in 7th. Such a running order is a far cry from the exploits of 2020 which saw Charles Leclerc claim 8th in the final standings compared to his outgoing teammate Sebastian Vettel who had to settle for 13th when all was said and done.
2020 was easily one of the most challenging years experienced by Scuderia Ferrari as they fell victim to a change in regulations. Yet, the turnaround in fortune midway through 2021 has been well received by Charles Leclerc:
"[The 2021 season has been] better than expected," Leclerc revealed. "I think there's a lot of work behind [it] and obviously I can see it, whenever I go to Maranello [and] here at the track. So it's not a complete surprise. Obviously, there is a big gain compared to last year, which is great to see and it shows that we are doing something right in the way we work.” Leclerc continued.
"But it's not the end of the road, and we have as a target to be back on top. We are just not really focusing on expectations, we are just focusing on the work to do, back in Maranello and at the track, and trying to maximise everything to be back to where we want to be as soon as possible."
The phrase ‘better than expected’ is one which the Monegasque racer has called on previously during his tenure with Scuderia Ferrari.
Back in August 2020, Charles Leclerc completed the first day of Practice sessions for the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit and remarked: “It has been a positive day and once again I would say that it turned out better than expected.” As a result of finishing 4th and then 6th on the timing sheet. However, come race day, Leclerc’s Spanish Grand Prix came to an end as he encountered an electrical issue whilst running in P10 and was forced to retire in the pits on Lap 38.
Then later in the season, this time in October 2020 during qualifying at Nürburgring. Having managed to negotiate his cumbersome Ferrari SF1000 all the way to fourth place on the grid for the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc uttered the now all too familiar phrase once again: “This qualifying result is possibly better than we expected.” On this occasion, by the conclusion of the Eifel Grand Prix, Leclerc would cross the line in P7.
In 2021, Charles Leclerc has managed to string a run of consistent form together which included a memorable second place at the British Grand Prix when a race victory had been so tantalizingly close. As much as Charles Leclerc is enjoying the current F1 season, he revealed to the select media which included racingnews365.com that his team is still working its way through a difficult phase.
"I'm enjoying this season," Leclerc said. "It's not an easy phase for the team obviously. We are trying to reconstruct everything to be back on top as soon as possible. It was the first year with Carlos as a teammate and it's going very, very well. We are pushing each other. He's very, very competitive which is great for me.”
Competitive is exactly what Scuderia Ferrari should be. As such it is a joy to see the Prancing Horse canter onto the podium on a more regular basis.
"As a team I think we are working very, very well. We are trying to use this momentum to keep gaining experience and to be as ready as possible for next year, which is going to be a very important year. Not forgetting obviously this year and trying to maximise our results for this season."
2020 has been a gripping season for so many and we still have half of it to go. However, the prospect of 2021 bringing with it a competitive Scuderia Ferrari outfit alongside Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team is a scintillating scenario. That would certainly be an amazing year – easily a better one than expected.