'We have a smile on our face after testing': Leclerc and Sainz on Ferrari's 2022 F1 chances


"You still don't want to believe the hype," says Carlos Sainz after Ferrari showed pace and reliability in F1 testing. He and Charles Leclerc look forward to a 2022 season in which many see the Italian team as favourites

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at F1 preseason testing in 2022

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc left Bahrain showing strong reliability and pace

Hasan Bratic via Getty Images

Does Scuderia Ferrari really have a package that is capable of winning races this year? The consensus up in the F1 pitlane after six days of testing and ahead of the first race weekend of the season in Bahrain is that the Italian team is very much in the mix for the first time since 2019.

The F1-75 was near the top of the times throughout testing, and more importantly the pace seemed to come easily to Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Also the test days passed without any obvious reliability issues, and the red car logged a lot of laps.

The impressive pace of the Red Bull RB18 on the final day of the Bahrain test after a major aero upgrade muddied the waters a bit and propelled the team to favourite status in many people’s eyes. However there’s no doubt that Ferrari is up there, and potentially at worst close second to Red Bull.

“You still don’t want to believe it completely… the hype around us”

Team boss Mattia Binotto has consistently downplayed any talk of the F1-75 being the car to beat, but there is a quiet confidence in the Maranello camp.

“I think we are actually very well prepared,” says Leclerc. “All the tests that we wanted to do during this winter testing have been done. We didn’t have any major issues, which is very important.

“So yeah, I think this is the main reason for which we have a smile on our face after these tests. Not for the competitiveness, because for this we don’t know yet. But for the reliability, for not having any problems, and for working well overall, as a team.”

Ferrari F1-75 in 2022 preseason F1 testing

Ferrari tested everything it wanted to in Barcelona and Bahrain, says Leclerc


Leclerc is adamant that after the last day of testing the RB18 has to be favourite.

“I feel we are still a bit behind Red Bull,” he says. “I don’t think we are speaking about a second, like it was last year, or even more the year before. So I feel it’s going to be closer, for sure.

“And this is already a good sign. But I still think they are the favourites, and so we need to work as much as we can tomorrow to try and maximise the day, and be as ready as possible for Saturday, and hopefully we’ll be fighting for the win.

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“I also think that Mercedes didn’t show all their potential. I mean, they’ve done few laps here and there that were good but they didn’t really put anything together, to be honest. So I think there’s a lot more to come from Mercedes too. And I think that they will still be the two teams to beat this year.”

Sainz is also keen to play down expectations and he’s not getting too excited about the thought that his first win might be within his grasp.

“You still don’t want to believe it completely,” says the Spaniard. “In your mind you want to come in here ready to fight for a win, because as a driver you want to be ready, but also not trying to believe too much let’s say the hype around us, and whatever we think we are.

“I’m ready for whatever comes, because I’ve been preparing myself obviously for this weekend now for a while. But maybe a bit more after FP1, FP2, FP3 I’ll start putting my expectations somewhere higher or lower.

“You cannot imagine the work that we put into this project, and how long we have been working on this, and the hours that I spent back in Maranello preparing this project. It’s a big effort, a big push by the whole team.

“And it’s something that I feel proud of, after the first six days of testing, the way the team has performed, how little reliability issues [we had] and how solid we were during the whole testing.”

Red Bull and Ferrari in 2022 F1 preseason testing

Red Bull pace in testing will have Ferrari worried

Jose Breton via Getty Images

One intriguing aspect of the team’s preparations was the decision not to introduce a significant aero upgrade for the second test in Bahrain, or indeed for the first race weekend.

While both Mercedes and Red Bull made big changes, Ferrari kept its package relatively constant, and that allowed team and drivers to really get the most out of what they had without getting confused by a new spec.

“I think only the first race will tell us whether our approach was the best one,” says Leclerc. “But I felt confident because I felt like the knowledge that we have of our car probably nobody in the paddock has the same knowledge of their car, because they’ve been changing it.

“But on the other hand obviously Red Bull did a massive step in the last day with the new upgrades.

“I was pretty surprised to see the Mercedes at the beginning of testing here in Bahrain, very, very different concepts to everyone, even though all the concepts are quite different, but they were quite extreme.

“So it’s going to be definitely very interesting to see here in qualifying which one works better. But I’m happy with our approach, and the fact that we know very, very well our car already.”

Side of Ferrari F1-75 in 2022 preseason testing

Ferrari says it knows the F1-75 well thanks to no big design changes during testing


Sainz agrees that the strategy of honing a consistent package was a good one.

“We brought the car from Barcelona,” he says. “We put it here on track, and we kept trying to solve the problems that we had with the bouncing and make it quicker.

“And I think this as a racing driver also helps, to keep the car constant, not having to do idle runs or aero mappings or strange things like this that for the team is always good, but for the drivers you feel like you’re losing time to understand the car.

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“And we managed to focus on set-up development, more kind of performance items to test, to see if we could put the car a bit on a happier window or a happier sweet spot. And I think it’s helped us as drivers.

“I haven’t done any performance runs, putting the car on the limit yet, but I’ve done a lot of long runs and all that sort of stuff that for sure will help me to understand the car better.”

All the top teams have quality line-ups these days, and Ferrari’s is surely amongst the strongest. If the F1-75 is as good as many think the team has two guys who are both not only fast, but who also work well together, and are smart enough to know that internal friction can only be negative.

Leclerc was superb in his first year with the team in 2019, winning twice and taking a string of poles. Since then he hasn’t had a competitive car, but he’s learned a great deal, and he is now a much more mature and rounded driver.

“I definitely feel much readier than compared to the first year,” says the Monégasque. “I mean, the first year, I also felt ready to show my potential. But now seeing the past three years, and how much I’ve learned in these past three years, I definitely feel much readier, and as a much more grown driver. So I feel I’m a better driver today.”

Ferrari F1-75 drives out of the pits in 2022 preseason testing

Leclerc says he’s ready for the challenge of 2022


He’s not getting too excited about the hype around the team: “For me I don’t feel it as extra pressure, I actually feel it as a positive thing. I mean, it’s a good sign if people expect us to be fighting at the front, it means that we’ve been doing something right, and what we’ve shown with testing, even though it’s only testing, was enough to make people think that we are in front.

“But we don’t get carried away for now. As I said it’s only suddenly testing. But it’s good to have these headlines back, because in the last two years it didn’t happen much!”

Sainz has gained a huge amount of experience over the years as he moved from team to team, and he clearly made a lot of progress in 2022.

“I think last year was super important just get to know the team,” he stresses. “And get to do our first year together, improve the team in areas where I think there was a margin of improvement, become a solid team back in the factory and also in the race team with the strategy, with the way that we have changed a couple of things.

“And I feel like we are a lot more solid now than what we were at the beginning of last year. So it’s definitely helped us to be a bit more bonded, a bit more together and ready for whatever comes this year.”

There’s certainly a real buzz around the Ferrari camp – but only on Sunday evening in Bahrain will we know the true picture.