Carlos Sainz says the data he has seen on Ferrari's 2021 challenger is "encouraging" but admits the level of progress it has made over the winter will remain unclear until the first race in Bahrain.

Sainz makes the switch to Ferrari from McLaren on the back of the Scuderia’s worst year since 1980 having finished last season sixth in the constructors' championship with just three podium finishes.

With a significant regulation change on the horizon in 2022, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has already admitted it will switch its development focus to next year earlier than usual in a bid to take advantage of a new set of regulations. 

 

Speaking at the team's season launch, Sainz is hopeful he can add to his podium tally of two in 2021.  

“That’s the million-dollar question that no one can answer right now,” Sainz said. “We will not know until we go to Bahrain – but not the Bahrain test, more the Bahrain race. In testing nowadays, especially with the amount of fuel loads you can put in and engine modes, it will be very difficult to take any kind of conclusion. 

“I think obviously I have been following very closely the progress of the team in the last few months and I have been trying to give my support and help. There are some encouraging signs and encouraging data coming out, but at the same time, we don’t know what the others are doing. It’s the same question every winter, do you know where the others are? 

“You might be progressing but you don’t know whether the others are progressing more or less. But I’m confident. I think we need to stay patient, see how it goes and also my main work this winter hasn’t been that much focusing on development but also trying to adapt myself to the team and getting to know all the people in the team and get ready myself for race one and testing, which is also quite a difficult task.”

With only three days of testing available to drivers this season, Sainz has limited time to adapt to life in Maranello.

The Spaniard is no stranger to team changes haven driven for Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren since making his F1 debut in 2015.

When asked if he'd be 100 percent ready for the first race in Bahrain, he added: “My intention is to obviously be 100 percent ready for race one, but realistically speaking from my experience, changing teams over the seasons, that has been very difficult to achieve. There’s always experiences and feelings that you need to go through race-by-race, or race weekend by race weekend, in free practices and qualifying, in the races, that you always end up during the races rather than testing.

“One day and a half of testing per driver is not going to help for sure but at the same time I am going to try and count on my experience of changing teams late and trying to arrive into race one at my maximum level. My one hundred percent level, which is the level at which I was showing at McLaren race-in, race-out, when am I going to achieve that, is very difficult to tell. My intention is to make it as soon as possible and if it’s race one then even better.

“But that depends also in the first feeling with the car and the feeling the car gives you straightaway out of the box and how close you think you are to the limit of the car straight away. I’m going to need a bit of time to figure that out and I’ll need a bit of time to experiment with my set-ups and putting the car a bit more to my liking and see where we can go for the future.”

Ferrari will reveal its SF21 car on March 10, just two days before the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain.

 

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