Charles Leclerc says Ferrari’s “realistic goal” for the 2021 season is to be Formula 1’s third-fastest team behind Red Bull and Mercedes. 

The Scuderia left Bahrain as F1’s fourth-fastest team as Charles Leclerc finished sixth, over 20 seconds behind McLaren’s Lando Norris in fourth.

Leclerc, as he did on multiple occasions in 2020, starred in qualifying as he put his Ferrari fourth on the grid, just a tenth shy of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, Leclerc concedes it’s unlikely Ferrari will be able to compete with Red Bull and Mercedes in 2021.

“I think a realistic goal for this year is to be just behind Red Bull and Mercedes, Leclerc said. “Realistically, I think it’s going to be very difficult to be able to fight with them.

“We are too far behind for now but we are in the fight with four, five other teams for the third-place in the constructors’ so it’s going to be a tight fight but if we do everything perfect it’s reachable.”

Leclerc believes this year’s Ferrari SF21 is an improvement in every area compared to its predecessor.

“It is a step forward, a significant step forward,” Leclerc added. “We’ve seen in Bahrain, we’ve had a better progression compared to the other teams from last year to this year so this is positive but on the other hand, we are still not fighting where we want to be fighting.

“We are putting all our efforts to try and come back to where we want to be is to fight for wins. If you compare last year to this year, we’ve done a good job and we just need to keep working like this.

“It’s an overall improvement. The power feels better, the balance in the corners and the actual grip of the car feels better so it’s overall - it’s not only on one thing in particular but it’s just the whole package that feels better. This is positive for the future.”