Charles Leclerc gave tifosi reason to smile after posting the third quickest time on the first day of free practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari enjoying a solid Friday at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
While Red Bull’s absence of any hot laps during the afternoon hour session, may well have flattered the Reds but Leclerc’s prime time was only a tenth and half down on Lewis Hamilton’s timesheet-topping effort suggesting there is some punch in the package.
Leclerc summed up his day in the team report: “We had a good, clean day. I’ve changed my approach a little bit since Portimão. After every weekend, I try to analyse where I need to improve. So far, I’m driving a lot better and feel I am in a good place with the car, so I’m quite happy.
“Last year we struggled quite a lot here, and this year the car feels much better. It’s great for the whole team, especially those back at the factory who work so hard and can see it pay off looking at the numbers. It motivates us all.
“[Saturday] will be important with qualifying on this track. If there is a nice surprise then that will be welcome, but I think that the objective is to be just behind the front runners,” added Leclerc.
On the other side of the garage, Carlos Sainz could not find the same pace his teammate found in the afternoon stanza he was three and a half tenths slower. He reported at the end of the day: “It’s been an encouraging day for us. Right from FP1 we saw the track had quite a lot of grip, which helped with the overall balance of the car.
“However, in FP2, the balance went away a bit from what I was looking for, particularly for the last sector. Hopefully, we can keep working and digging and put it all together for qualifying tomorrow.
Reaching Q3 won’t be easy, as we expect three or four cars to be in the same tenth, so we need to make sure we are as prepared as possible,” added the Spaniard.
The difficulty of toiling in the midpack means that a tenth here or there and will ultimately be the difference in Qualifying between making it from Q3 into Q2 and, of course, Q2 to Q3.
Now Ferrari will see if they can translate their Friday form into meaningful grid positions for the race in Barcelona on Sunday.