Carlos Sainz believes Ferrari can hold the upper hand over McLaren at some tracks this season in what is shaping up to be a close fight over third place in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship.

Ferrari appears to have made significant progress with its updated 2021 F1 car as it looks to bounce back from its worst season in 40 years, having slumped to sixth place in the standings in 2020.

The Italian outfit made it consecutive double points finishes for the first time since 2019 at last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, as Charles Leclerc and Sainz finished fourth and fifth behind McLaren's Lando Norris at Imola.

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Based on the opening two rounds of the campaign, it looks as though Ferrari and McLaren are set for a titanic season-long scrap to clinch ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes and Red Bull this year.

McLaren currently sits third and is seven points clear of Ferrari after holding the edge at the first two races, but Sainz is confident the Scuderia will be ahead of his former team at circuits that better suit its F1 car.

“I think it is very tight, honestly,” said Sainz. “It is very difficult to pick from.

“I think the McLaren has its strengths and its weaknesses, and us the same. What makes it a really nice fight is that we are quick in very different places on the track and that makes it a very fun battle.

“It looked like this weekend [in Imola], Lando did a very good job of exploiting the whole car potential. He was on it the whole weekend especially from Saturday onwards, and he did a good race.

“Overall, it’s very tight. Maybe they had a bit of the upper hand this weekend, and they had the upper hand, a tiny bit, the last two weekends. But as soon as we do a very good weekend and we go to a track that maybe favours us, I think we can be ahead.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto agreed with Sainz’s verdict but wanted his side still has to “prove” the progress it has made with its updated SF21 car that appears to have addressed the weaknesses of its SF1000 predecessor.

“I think that confirms to me Mercedes and Red Bull are still ahead and I don’t think that can be a surprise, the gap was so big last year,” said Binotto.

"I am somehow already happy what we managed to progress but as Carlos mentioned, we are in a tight fight with McLaren for third. Is that our objective for the season? I think our objective is often said, it’s to still prove that we can progress in all the areas.

“I think we can do it. It’s really a matter of mentality and I think more importantly it shows we are capable of progressing but from what we have a good starting point.”