To say Ferrari are enjoying the 2021 F1 season much more than last season would be an understatement.
For starters, the Scuderia have already secured 60 points in the constructors' standings. Considering Ferrari didn't hit the 60 mark (they sat at 61) until the eighth race last season, it's safe to say the team can see the light at the end of what was a dark tunnel.
What a dark tunnel that was. Ferrari ended their disastrous 2020 campaign sixth in the constructors' standings, their worst finish in four decades. At the end of the season the Scuderia even said goodbye to Sebastian Vettel, who had been with the team since 2015 and finished second in the championship standings on two occasions, replacing him with Carlos Sainz.
All that has changed in 2021. Ferrari currently sit fourth in the constructors' standing, just five points back of nearest rivals McLaren. As things stand, it looks like the battle for the final podium spot behind Mercedes and Red Bull will be between those two teams given the gap to those behind them.
Alpine currently sit fifth on 15 points, 45 behind the Scuderia despite bringing back Fernando Alonso, while AlphaTauri sit on 10. Aston Martin, who many thought would be challenging near the front of the grid before the start of the season, have only claimed five points so far - none of which have come from Vettel.
Granted, Ferrari sat fourth in the constructors' standings after four races last season as well, however they had only secured 43 points at that time. The gap to those behind them was significantly smaller, and the points came largely from just Charles Leclerc.
The Monegasque driver managed to finish on the podium in Austria and Great Britain, but as a team, Ferrari failed to bring home both their cars inside the top nine. It's something team principal Mattia Binotto made all too clear following the opening race in Bahrain.
"I'm happy with the two drivers, we can finally rely on both," he told RacingNews365.com and other members of the media. "Carlos showed some good pace, as did Charles. It's important that the two drivers collaborate. Carlos is settling in with the team and working well with Charles."
Things have changed for the better in 2021, with both Leclerc and Sainz finishing inside the top eight at three of the four races. Although the Scuderia haven't made the podium yet, it's a sign things are heading in the right direction following a season where the team couldn't get things right.
"Ferrari and McLaren are making a big step forward, and we need to keep up if we want to battle in the midfield," Gasly told RacingNews365.com and other members of the media after Sunday's race in Spain.
The Scuderia's performance in Barcelona was even noted by Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas noting they looked particularly strong and Lewis Hamilton impressed by the progress the team have made.
Binotto, speaking after Sunday's race in Spain, gave perhaps the clearest indication of just how big the step Ferrari have taken this season actually is.
"The progress we have made is evident," Binotto told Sky Italia. "Last season we were lapped here [in Spain]. The car performed well, especially in the final sector as we lost close to a second a lap there in 2020."
To show just how far off the pace Ferrari were in Spain in 2020, Vettel finished the race in seventh while Leclerc retired with electric problems. The German's best lap was over four seconds slower than that of Bottas'. This season, Leclerc's best lap was only 2.3 seconds slower than that of Max Verstappen, showing that while their is still ample room for improvement, progress has certainly been made.
As things stand Leclerc is just one point behind Lando Norris in the drivers' standings, while Sainz trails Daniel Ricciardo by four. The duo will get the chance to leapfrog their McLaren rivals in the standings in a little under two weeks when F1 visits the tight streets of Monaco.
Whether or not that overtake happens remains to be seen, but what is certain is that Ferrari's struggles in 2020 are a thing of the past.