Will Ferrari’s New SF21 and Charles LeClerc Take the World by Storm this Season?

This is one of the most exciting periods in Formula 1, but there is no race! Why is that? It’s when all the sins of the prior season are forgotten, including Ferrari’s depressing last season’s results, and once again “Hope Springs Eternal”.  

Hope in the form of a new vehicle, or better stated with modifications that the engineering teams bet on making their thorough-bred racing machines winners for the new season. 

It all starts with a flourish of photo-ops. Ferrari held back almost to the last moment and then we got to see the SF21 – driven this season by newly hired Carlos Sainz Jr. and Monegasque Charles Leclerc. (This year the Vettel LeClerc rivalry plays out anew but as members of separate teams).  

For the fans in general the new car is a revelation that delights. It is a classic gleaming red monster with a salute to the past due to blending the colour toward the rear of the car to a darker shade. It brings back memories of the historic Burgundy red of the Scuderia’s debut in F1. A shade that is reminiscent of the SF1000 at the Grand Prix of Tuscany last season, celebrating the 1000th Grand Prix run by the Italian team. But last year there was little on track to smile about with Charles Leclerc finishing eighth in that race. And it was Ferrari’s worst season in 40 years finishing sixth in the constructors’ standings, behind teams such as McLaren, Renault and Racing Point. 

This year pundits see improvements in the car in all areas – though the regulations are strict and the team doesn’t have carte blanche. There is a new engine, revised aerodynamics and a modified rear end noticeable as the Scuderia lifted the veil on the much vaunted SF21. And despite the glaring red a surprise reappearance of the green Mission Winnow logo on the engine cover, behind the cockpit. 

No sooner was the new Ferrari unveiled than it was shipped to Bahrain for the pre-season three-day testing spectacle on March 12th to 14th where all the teams got a chance to see if their shiny new toys perform well in anger. Great photos give way to burning rubber and gear boxes shocked to the limit.  

Leading the Prancing Horse Driving team is Charles Leclerc, now a veteran entering his third season. The Monegasque, who arrived in 2019 following his convincing debut in Formula 1, is generally acknowledged the number 1 driver in the team after the departure of Sebastian Vettel for Aston Martin. The German was replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr., former Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren driver. 

Carlos certainly did not hide his light under a bushel in testing. Late on in Bahrain testing, Ferrari’s Sainz Jr grabbed third with a 1m29.611s lap on soft tyres.  

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended the third and final day of Formula 1 pre-season testing on top, setting the fastest time of the Bahrain test on Sunday afternoon. 

In a frantic final hour of the afternoon session Verstappen used Pirelli’s soft C4 compound to set a time of 1m28.960s, one tenth quicker than AlphaTauri’s rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda.  

We have to remember the three days of testing is exactly that. No one shows their full hand. But the professional race-spotters are all out second-guessing which of the new racing machines are performing to expectations and which are not.   

Charles Leclerc should know best – he is reported saying Ferrari’s new Formula 1 car is showing some “promising signs”.  

In two weeks the F1 paddock reconvenes in Sakhir for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28. That’s when the gloves come off and there is no more mystery and speculation. We wait with baited breath – is Ferrari the top contender it has always been! 

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