Ferrari head into the Monaco GP in good spirits following a strong showing in Spain where Charles Leclerc was on top form to finish in fourth place.
Leclerc will be racing on home soil this weekend and could do something very special. The Monegasque driver is yet to finish a Monaco GP, having crashed out due to a brake failure in 2018 and a scrappy drive from the back of the grid saw him retire early on in 2019.
Last year was Ferrari's worst season in F1 since 1980 but they have made substantial gains in every area to now be fighting against McLaren for third place in the constructors' championship.
Leclerc is currently fifth in the drivers' standings but has played down his chances of potentially challenging Mercedes and Red Bull.
"Obviously it is a very special weekend for me," Leclerc told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press. "I have not been very lucky in the past so I hope we can have a good weekend as a team.
"Looking at the third sector in Spain we were quite competitive. Of course, it's different in Monaco but we seem to have a strong car so hopefully we ca be competitive at home, and have a good result."
Leclerc notes Ferrari's competitiveness in final sector of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which features a series of slow speed corners, which bodes well for Monaco.
Sector Three at Spanish GP Qualifying
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||26.295|
|7||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||26.695|
Leclerc is just over a tenth slower than Bottas in the final sector in Spain and Carlos Sainz is not too far behind either. This suggests not only that the SF21 is strong in the slow speed turns, but it's giving the drivers confidence.
Sainz's ability to get up to speed very quickly to be on the pace of Leclerc in Bahrain and Imola reaffirms this claim. Whilst drivers who have changed teams have struggled (or returned in Fernando Alonso's case), Sainz has managed to be very close to Leclerc on raw pace.
Don't forget that Leclerc is arguably the best driver over one lap and is highly rated so for Sainz to be as close as he has been demonstrates that the Spaniard is an excellent F1 driver and the Ferrari is easy to drive.
Monaco is all about confidence as the drivers look to build themselves up as the weekend progresses. They will want to start to push as early as possible to test the limits and get used to driving just millimetres away from the barrier and carry as much speed as possible through the tight turns.
Both Leclerc and Sainz seem happy with the car which is a good indicator that Monaco will be a great track for Ferrari.
"Monaco is a very specific circuit," Sainz told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press. "Having good downforce in the last sector in Spain gives you a good feeling and a good state of mind going into Monaco.
"Monaco then has a lot of specifics in terms of car setup, tyre preparation for qualifying, the cars are so different in Monaco.
"We need to focus on what we learned and try to put it all together with the best possible plan, the best possible set up for and try to maximise our performance there."
Leclerc's ability to extract outstanding laps in Q3 when it matters most could see him in and amongst Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez.
Time and time again Leclerc has executed some exceptional laps, getting the most out of the car which increases his trust with the car. Sainz has pushed Leclerc on too and many believe that the Ferrari driver line-up is the best on the Formula 1 grid.
Monaco is all about qualifying and if Leclerc and Sainz are willing to take some big risks, they could find himself on the podium on merit. Saturday is set to be spectacular.