F1: Leclerc says Ferrari career has 'exceeded expectations'
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Ferrari unveiled their new Formula One car on Wednesday, as the historic team vow to “recover” from their worst season in 40 years.
They have changed their line-up for 2021, with Carlos Sainz moving from McLaren and replacing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel alongside Charles Leclerc.
The pairing is Ferrari’s youngest since 1968, with an average age of 25 years, however they do face a mountain to climb, thanks to a torrid season last time out.
But however bad the journey, Leclerc has remained with the sport’s most successful team, and says the goal is pretty clear this season.
“I’m here to beat everyone else, and I know that my team-mate is the only driver on the grid that has the same car as I do,” stated Leclerc.
“So it’s always a challenge to beat the driver who has the same car as you.
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“Once I signed with Ferrari, it was a very, very special moment. Even though I am very young, I know how much work I’ve put to get there.
“The moment you sign that paper, and the moment you realise you’re going to be a Ferrari Formula One driver, it changes your life completely.”
Meanwhile, his team-mate Carlos Sainz, who will have the chance to stretch his legs in the new Prancing Pony as testing gets underway later this week, had no qualms about signing for the team.
The Spaniard said: “My first proper day of work at Ferrari didn’t come until December, and that’s when I met all the people in the factory, all my engineers, the mechanics that I was going to work with. I was starting to work on the future.”
“The first time you put a red suit on, the first time you put on a red cap, the first time you properly wear red is a day you look in the mirror and you say, properly this day I will never forget for the rest of my life, even when you’re 80 or 90 years old.”
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For me to achieve this at 26-years-old, is always something I’ve always lived for. In five years, my target is to be a world champion. I do believe that Ferrari is the place to try and achieve that.
“I do believe I’m in the right place at the right time, we just need some time to make that happen.”
The SF21 has a completely new engine and changed front wing and nose, with two differing shades of red in a nod to past victories.
And Sainz said now is the time to rebuild the team, and start afresh.
“Right now is an important moment where we’re trying to recover altogether, and bring Ferrari back to the top, so it requires a lot of team building,” he continued.
“As soon as the results start showing, there’s going to be a great momentum generated in the team, and we’re all going to feel even more excited about the future.”
Sporting director Laurent Mekies said: “The 2021 season is about the lessons learned from an incredibly difficult 2020 campaign.
“We have tried to learn from our mistakes and improve in the areas where simply we have not been strong enough.
“Of course in the frozen technical regulations and the new financial regulations we know there is a limit in terms of how fast we can turn things around, but we have been trying to reconstruct methodically our way back to the more competitive part of the grid.”
The team boss Mattia Binotto was confident of their new set up, explaining some of the changes.
“This car was born out of last year’s car due to the new regulations so it was partially frozen, but we tried to improve it in all of its areas, wherever it was possible,” said Binotto.
“The aerodynamics was revised, and it has a completely new power unit. Its livery has also changed, the posterior is a burgundy colour similar to the very first Ferrari racing car, the 125S.
“It’s the same colour we used last year at Mugello to celebrate our 1000th Grand Prix. This year is going to be full of challenges.”
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