Charles Leclerc was back to his best in Bahrain as he punched above the weight of his Ferrari to qualify fourth on Saturday. On race day, however, the Monegasque did not have as much luck as Ferrari struggled for pace compared to McLaren. Lando Norris passed him early in the race and he could not hold off the surging Red Bull of Sergio Perez later.
At the start of the race, Charles Leclerc was quicker off the line than third-placed Bottas and eventually overtook the Finn. Valtteri Bottas struggled during the practice sessions, which gave Leclerc hope of keeping the Finn behind during the race.
Speaking about his battle with Bottas, Leclerc said:
"I managed to get past him but without taking stupid risks. Before the race, you always try to imagine yourself and what were the fights that I would pick and the others that I wouldn’t. Valtteri was a bit of a question mark because I think in second practice he was not as competitive as we would have expected him to be. So we had a hope of maybe keeping him behind, which was not the case in the race.”
There has been good progress compared to last year: Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc eventually lost his place to Bottas and then dropped further down the grid after Lando Norris' overtake. However, the Monegasque took positives from the race as Ferrari were able to put a much-improved car on display compared to last season. The team will hope to compete with McLaren for third place in the constructors' standings.
Speaking about the progress made at the Maranello-based team, Leclerc said:
“If I look at where we were last year, at the same place, there’s been good progress. Surely we want to be fighting for the win very, very soon. But realistically and honestly, we’ve done a great job to catch that and to be now closer to McLaren at least, and fighting with them in the race."
Ferrari has made a crucial step forward this year. Their new power unit is showing signs of being competitive, while the aero parts on the car have improved. Success is always expected at the Scuderia, and after a disastrous 2020 campaign, early signs look promising for Ferrari and Leclerc.