Carlos Sainz believes Ferrari can get the better of a very tight battle with McLaren for third place in the constructors’ championship this season, expecting certain tracks to suit the Scuderia.
McLaren has made a very impressive start to the 2021 season, with Lando Norris fourth in Bahrain and third in Imola, backed up by Daniel Ricciardo finishing seventh and sixth on each of his first two appearances for the team. Ferrari has also delivery a major step forward after a poor 2020 and is currently just seven points adrift of McLaren, and Sainz is expecting a close fight throughout the year against his former team.
“I think it is very tight, honestly,” Sainz said. “It is very difficult to pick from. I think the McLaren has its strengths and its weaknesses, and us the same. What makes it a really nice fight is that we are quick in very different places on the track and it makes it a very fun battle.
“It looked like Lando did a very good job in extracting the whole car potential (at Imola). He was on it the whole weekend, especially from Saturday onwards, and he did a good race. They were, in my opinion on a slower tire, on the softs at the end of the stint.
“You could see they were graining a little bit and that’s why we were behind him, pushing him but if he would have been on the medium it’d have been very difficult to stay in his DRS because he was very quick on mediums all weekend.
“Maybe they have a bit of an upper hand the last two races. As soon as we do a very good weekend and we go to a track that maybe favors us a little bit, we can be ahead.”
While the McLaren battle is an exciting one and shows how far Ferrari has progressed from the end of last year, team principal Mattia Binotto wants to focus less on individual fights and more on the overall improvements the team can make.
“Mercedes and Red Bull are still ahead and I don’t think that can be a surprise — the gap was so big last year,” Binotto said. “I am already happy (with) what we managed to progress but as Carlos mentioned, we are in a tight fight with McLaren for the third position.
“Is that our objective for the season? I think our objective is often said — it’s to prove that we can progress in all the areas. I think we can do it. It’s really a matter of mentality and I think more importantly it shows we are capable of progressing. But what we have (is) a good starting point.”