Gasly tips Ferrari as team to watch in 2021 Formula One season

By Sports Desk March 18, 2021

Pierre Gasly believes Ferrari could be the team to watch in the 2021 Formula One season even though Mercedes are likely to finish "clearly on top".

The Scuderia managed just three podium finishes through Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel last year as they came sixth in the constructors' championship.

AlphaTauri were just 24 points behind them, their season buoyed by a remarkable grand prix win for Gasly in Monza.

However, testing ahead of 2021 has offered glimpses of a better future for Ferrari following their worst season in four decades. Carlos Sainz recorded the third-fastest time last Sunday in Bahrain, while he and Leclerc are each said to be happier with the handling of the car after problems with straight-line speed last year.

Gasly, who has spoken privately to Leclerc about Ferrari's progress, believes the team are keeping their cards close to their chest in terms of their progress during the off-season.

He told Stats Perform News: "I think Ferrari are kind of hiding and not showing too much. Compared to last year I think they are clearly better.

"I discussed it with [Charles] Leclerc after the test and we exchanged a couple of messages, talking but not too much, just trying to [laughing], have an idea!

"I think we are close to each other. I don't know if they are ahead of us or if we are slightly ahead. But they have clearly made a step forward. 

"I think McLaren seem to be a very strong opponent and competitor at the moment, especially with a Mercedes engine. They seem to have managed to put a strong package together.

"Then at the top, we will see what happens between Mercedes and Red Bull; it is very difficult to say and make any conclusion. Mercedes had a pretty difficult test, with some reliability issues, but we know how strong they are as a team so I wouldn't be surprised to see them clearly on top."

The new season begins in Bahrain on March 28.

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    In treacherous conditions in Shanghai, Norris tip-toed his McLaren to top spot, finishing 1.2 seconds clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in an all-British front row for Saturday’s 19-lap dash.

    For a moment Hamilton, who has endured his worst start ever to a season, looked to have taken a surprise pole when Norris’ best lap was chalked off for exceeding track limits at the final corner.

    But the stewards U-turned on their decision after it became evident the 23-year-old had not gained an advantage as he scrambled for grip while gearing up for his pole lap.

    Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will line up from third for Saturday’s sprint race, one position ahead of Max Verstappen who struggled in the inclement conditions in his all-conquering Red Bull.

    “It was wild,” said Norris. “You always know it is going to be in a session like this.

    “You only have three laps. The first two I aborted so that last lap was all or nothing. I was nervous because I made a few mistakes, but you have to risk a lot and push and I was quick.

    “I got a good final lap in for pole so I am happy. I am sad it is not real qualifying, but it is good enough. It gets your heart going and it is what we wanted.”

    On Formula One’s return to China after a five-year absence, rain threatened throughout qualifying and it finally arrived for the decisive Q3 session.

    Charles Leclerc was the first to fall foul of the downpour when he lost control of his Ferrari. The Monegasque pirouetted through the gravel before hitting the wall at Turn 2 and breaking the front wing on his Ferrari. He had to settle for seventh.

    Verstappen made not one, but two uncharacteristic mistakes – driving off the road in his first attempt at pole, before later running through the sandtrap at the final corner.

    Mercedes’ wretched run had appeared set to continue here after George Russell was eliminated in 11th in the dry – but when the rain landed, Hamilton looked at home as he secured his spot on the front row.

    “I am so happy,” said the 39-year-old, who failed to finish inside the top six at any of the opening four rounds.

    “When I saw the rain coming I was getting excited because in the dry we are not quick enough. I thought I would have a better opportunity and that is when it all came alive.

    “Tomorrow depends on the conditions and if it is like that, maybe we will have a chance of being somewhere up there, but if it is dry the Ferraris and Red Bull will come by.”

    Earlier, the start of Q2 was delayed by several minutes following a second bizarre track fire of the day.

    Practice was red-flagged when a patch of grass next to Turn 7 caught fire. And in qualifying the grass was ablaze again, this time at Turn 5.

    Although both fires were quickly extinguished, the incidents – which the FIA believes were caused by sparks flying off the drivers’ cars – will be a concern for the sport’s bosses.

    Saturday’s sprint takes place at 11am local time (04:00 BST) ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

  • Lando Norris lands sprint race pole position at Chinese Grand Prix Lando Norris lands sprint race pole position at Chinese Grand Prix

    Lando Norris mastered a rain-hit qualifying to secure pole position for Saturday’s sprint race at the Chinese Grand Prix.

    In soaking conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit, Norris finished 1.2 seconds clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in an all-British front row for Saturday’s 19-lap dash.

    Hamilton looked to have taken top spot after Norris’ best lap was deleted by the stewards only for it then to be reinstated.

    “Simply beautiful,” said Norris after he was informed of his pole. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso qualified third, one place ahead of triple world champion Max Verstappen, who ran off the road on numerous occasions.

    Rain threatened throughout qualifying and finally arrived for the decisive Q3 session.

    Charles Leclerc was the first to fall foul of the torrid conditions when he lost control of his Ferrari. The Monegasque pirouetted through the gravel before hitting the wall at Turn 2 and braking the front wing on his Ferrari.

    Verstappen also made an error, falling off the road in his first attempt, before then running through the sandtrap at the final corner. The driver, who has dominated Formula One, had to settle for fourth.

    Hamilton has had a season to forget – statistically, at least, the worst of his career so far. But for a moment here, he topped the time charts only to see Norris edge him out with an impressive lap.

    Norris’ time was initially chalked off for exceeding track limits but after the British driver, 23, complained he “didn’t go off anywhere”, the stewards u-turned on their decision.

    “It was tricky,” said Norris. “You always know it is going to be in a session like this.

    “You only have three laps. The first two I aborted so that last lap was all or nothing.

    “I was nervous because I made a few mistakes, but you have to risk a lot and push and I was quick.

    “I got a good final lap in for pole so I am happy, sad it is not real qualifying, but it is good enough. It gets your heart going and it is what we wanted.”

    Mercedes’ wretched run looked set to continue after George Russell was eliminated in 11th but when the rain arrived, Hamilton looked at home to secure his spot on the front row.

    Elsewhere, Carlos Sainz finished fifth for Ferrari ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez with Leclerc seventh.

    F1 is back in China following a five-year absence and home favourite Zhou Guanyu sent the home crowd happy after he qualified 10th.

    Earlier, the start of Q2 was delayed by several minutes following a second bizarre track fire of the day.

    Practice was red-flagged when a patch of grass next to Turn 7 caught fire. And there was a similar incident in qualifying, this time at Turn 5.

    Although both blazes were quickly extinguished, the incidents – which the FIA believe were caused by sparks flying off the drivers’ cars – will be a concern for the sport’s bosses.

    Saturday’s sprint takes place at 11am local time (04:00 BST) ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

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