Leclerc and Ferrari on their chances at ‘special’ Monaco home race

“We are not yet where we want to be, because we want to be fighting for the first place. And today by making everything perfect, which is a great job by the team, we managed to get fourth. But we want to be fighting further.”

Regarding the impressive race pace in Spain he added: “Definitely in Imola we were very strong too. Bahrain probably I didn’t do a good job personally to keep the tires as well as I could have done. Portimao on my side was quite good too.

“I don’t think weakness there’s a big like there was maybe a bit more last year on the race pace. I feel like this year it’s a lot more balanced, and we are actually stronger in qualifying and in the race. That’s good.”

The 2020 season was a tough one for Leclerc, who lost some of the momentum that he built up with his superb performances in 2019. Driver and team kept faith with each other through the tough times, and that’s starting to pay dividends.

“We have been focusing on ourselves. Last year was definitely a difficult season to accept where we were. But I think the team has done a great job by accepting pretty quickly that we had done a step back, and then we’ve been working in the best way possible, I think, since that moment onwards.

“And this year we can see that just the team has done a great job by just making steps in the right direction.

“It shows that all the work that the people have made back in Maranello, and that we have done so here at the track, is paying off. And we can see it on the track.

“The road is still long, and we want to be fighting for the first positions very soon. But I think the way we work is the right one, and we are just doing a good job as a team. So we need to keep going like this.”

There’s clearly a much better atmosphere in the camp, with Sainz bringing his own brand of enthusiasm and keeping Leclerc on his toes. The two drivers are spurring each other on.

Leclerc Portimao 2021

Leclerc struggled in Portuguese GP qualifying, but still delivered a strong Sunday

Grand Prix Photo

“We are working very well as a team,” Leclerc noted. “We are pushing each other. Carlos, he is extremely competitive, and very quick all the time. So we are pushing each other, we are learning a lot from one another, and I think this is very positive for the whole team.

“And we are also asking the same things to the engineers, to have just a better car, which is also very constructive for the whole team. So we are in a good place at the moment, and we need to keep working on that.”

“I’m really looking forward to Monaco – we seem to have a strong car”

The third sector in Barcelona gives an indication of potential Monaco form, as it highlights slow-corner performance. Ferrari had an edge over McLaren in Spain, and that suggests that the team could lead the chase of Mercedes and Red Bull.

Anything better than that could be down to good fortune and a little Leclerc magic. Thus far in 2021 he has logged two fourth places and a pair of sixths, and a podium on home ground would be a solid achievement.

“I’m really looking forward to Monaco,” he said last weekend. “Obviously it is a very special weekend for me, and a weekend where I have not been very, very lucky in the past.

“So I hope we can have a good weekend as a team. And also looking at the third sector [in Barcelona], we were quite competitive here. Of course, it’s different, but we seem to have a strong car, so hopefully we can be competitive at home, and have a good result.”