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We finally got to see Ferrari’s 2021 championship contender –more or less–, the SF-21. The car was unveiled on Wednesday and on Friday Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. drove it extensively for the first time as the test days began in Bahrain.
It has already seen some turmoil over the green Mission Winnow logo, but, in general, the tifosi can be hopeful for this year’s season. Ferrari has spent its two development tokens on the rear end of the car, installing a new rear transmission and suspension in an effort to gain back lost downforce at the back of the single-seater. Rear stability seems to have improved as these last three days of tests in Bahrain have showed a more stable Ferrari, not only in comparison to its precedent car, the SF-1000, but to some of its competitors too.
Today, in an interview with Haas’ Gunther Steiner and Williams’ Simon Roberts, Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto said that extensive testing in the wind tunnel at Maranello and the performance showed on track confirm an improvement in aerodynamics and engine power. However, instead of capitilizing on this, the Scuderia has chosen to verify other elements of the car during these test days, such as tyre management and race pace. While not putting on soft tires –the fastest–, it has ran hundreds of laps with the slower intermediate and hard tires, still showing great consistency and finishing decently in the classification.
Nevertheless, these days’ tests show us so much of the cars real technical capabilities and are not to be taken as the results of a Grand Prix. The teams themselves tend not to show all their cards. We’ll have to wait until 28th March to see the real possibilities of this year’s contenders.
What we can mention are the clear improvements made by Red Bull, McLaren and, to a lesser extent, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo. The team from Milton Keynes seems to have finally built a car, the RB16B, capable of bringing the heat to the troubled Mercedes’ W12, which has shown uncommon unreliability and poor synch with its seven-times world champion, Lewis Hamilton. On the other hand, Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez have set new personal –and track– records on the Sakhir circuit, lowering their lap times around the Bahraini track to 1:28:960 and 1:30:187, respectively. Verstappen’s lap time last year at the Sakhir GP was 1:32:00.
Maybe the green Mission Winnow logo could turn to be one of the few negative features of the SF-21, making this year’s Ferrari a solid contender for the season to come. We just have to wait until 28th March.
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Author’s note: after this article was written, Carlos Sainz Jr. ran with C4 tires –the second fastest set– reaching third in the classification.