Ferrari heads into 2021 looking to recover from its worst campaign in 40 years as it slumped to sixth in the constructors’ championship last season, scoring just three podium finishes.
The team struggled with a troublesome SF1000 car that was compromised by a lack of straight-line speed, owing to its underperforming power unit and draggy aerodynamic concept.
The team also began the delayed start to season having already announced Sebastian Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of 2021, signing Carlos Sainz as his replacement.
As the reality of Ferrari’s plight became clear to the team in the early part of last year, a “strange” atmosphere emerged at Maranello, according to Leclerc.
“At first there was a strange atmosphere at first in 2020 where we realised the reality of things, that it was quite a lot worse than what we expected,” Leclerc said when asked by Motorsport.com about the atmosphere at Ferrari. “There was a time where it was not great. But very quickly the mentality changed and there was a huge motivation to try and come back to where we want to be.
“I think this didn’t change for this year. With Carlos, he is bringing experience from other teams too, that he’s very interesting and that he’s also giving us new worlds to explore.
“So this is very interesting, but I guess the mentality of the team itself is still as motivated as last year and is really willing to push to have better things and better days coming soon.”
Ferrari was encouraged by its performance with the new SF21 car through testing last week in Bahrain, with team boss Mattia Binotto declaring that straight-line speed was no longer a disadvantage heading into the 2021 season.
Asked about the team’s performance gains through pre-season testing, Binotto said he was pleased with how the data was matching up with Ferrari’s expectations at the factory.
“We tried to develop as much as we could the back of the car,” Binotto said.
“What was more important for us was to understand the correlation with the wind tunnel and the simulations, so gathering data and comparing.
“I think we’re pretty happy with the correlation, which means we’ve got a good baseline at least for the next simulations or eventual developments.
“Correlation was a key factor in those [test] days. So far at least, it’s going pretty well.”