Charles Leclerc debuted Ferrari’s upgraded engine - which features a revised hybrid system - in Russia as he started from the back of the grid, before the same happened to teammate Carlos Sainz at the next race in Turkey. 

Ferrari has elected to fit the updated power unit this season as part of a learning exercise before an engine freeze comes into effect in 2022. 

The gamble has already showed signs of paying off with Ferrari enjoying an upswing in performance at the last two events, even though the Italian outfit has remained tight-lipped about the exact gains it has made. 

“As we said at the very start with Charles, when we introduced it in Sochi, the first objective is try to increase our experience in the view of 2022,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. 

“That’s why we introduced it as soon as possible, trying to rush it, taking some risks as well, but it’s all a risk assessment. Obviously for us it’s clear [that we need] to get mileage on-track and do our own experience before 2022 where the power units will be frozen. 

“Really for us, that was the key. It is giving us a small advantage, I don’t want to quantify it on lap time, because it is track dependent. It’s not only pure ICE power, it’s energy recovery, so it’s a bit complex. 

“If I look at qualifying with Charles, he qualified with the fourth best lap time, if I look behind him, it was very close, and I’m pretty sure that a couple of positions would have been lost without that specification.” 

While the main focus of Ferrari’s upgrade was to strengthen its 2022 prospects, the decision could lead to a secondary consequence if the team manages to overhaul McLaren in their close battle for third place in the constructors’ championship. 

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Ferrari sits just 7.5 points behind McLaren with six races remaining after outscoring its main rival by 10 points in the Turkish Grand Prix as Leclerc finished fourth and Sainz charged through the order to take eighth. 

Sainz believes the additional power boost could help tip the balance in Ferrari’s favour. 

“We were quicker than McLaren [in Turkey],” Sainz explained. “In Sochi they were quicker than us. So I still believe it’s going to be up and down until the end of the year.

“What this engine should give us, I think, is the possibility for the circuits that we are behind to be a bit closer to them and in the circuits that we are in front to be maybe a bit further up.

“This is what we were looking for since the upgrade was pushed forward and what we hope is going to give us that little edge to try and make the fight a bit more complicated for them. 

“We managed to cut 10 points on them which for the points that we are fighting is quite a big cut. So if we keep fighting, six races to go, I think anything can happen.”

And Binotto says the experience of its fight with McLaren will ultimately benefit Ferrari when it finds itself in a position to once again challenge for world titles. 

“It’s certainly a target that we have already communicated to the team,” Binotto added. “I think everybody is on board with that. It would be great to finish third. 

“I think even working with the clear objective by the end of this season, it’s important for us because it’s a way of working under pressure and being trained to that. 

“So yes, our objective is to finish third at the end of the season.”