Ferrari endured its worst season in 40 years in 2020 as it finished sixth in the constructors’ championship.
Assessing Ferrari’s improvement in 2021, Leclerc isn’t too surprised by its upturn in form but he isn’t getting carried away due to the sizable deficit to Mercedes and Red Bull.
“Well, surprised, yes and no,” Leclerc said in Thursday’s drivers’ press conference in Portugal. “Because I’ve seen all of the work that has been put into last year to just come back to where we want to be, which is not yet happening. We are fourth, we’ve done a good step forward compared to last year and I know how much everyone worked back at the factor to do a step forward from last year to this year.
“So no, on that side it’s not a surprise, but it’s nice to see that all of the work paid off and we are managing to be in better shape this year but there is still a lot of work to do.”
Leclerc was running second in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, before dropping to fourth after losing a place to Lando Norris on the Safety Car restart and then one to the fast-recovering Lewis Hamilton.
The Monegasque driver was encouraged by how the Ferrari SF21 performed in changeable conditions.
When asked how easy it was to keep up with Max Verstappen and Hamilton at Imola, he replied: “Oh it wasn’t easy, not at all! But it was fun. It was good to be able to show that also in those conditions we seem to have made a step forward which has been a weakness on my side.
“But also in general the feeling with the car last year and the year before wasn’t great in those conditions, and in Imola, it felt quite nice.”
While Sainz hasn’t been able to match the outright pace of Leclerc in qualifying, the Spaniard looks to be more of a match on race day.
Reflecting on his first two races for Ferrari, Sainz is sure there’s still a lot of scope for improvement.
“Well quite a bit, as you can imagine we are in race three of a 23 race calendar so there’s still a lot of things to learn, a lot of things to go through,” Sainz added. “So far, I am relatively happy with the way I have integrated myself in the team, the way things are progressing but I want more!
“Obviously the team wants more, we all want more. I think I just need to keep doing my work, keep my head down and things will keep coming like they have during these first two races.”