By Shwetha Surendran
BU News Service
After a dreadful 2020 Formula One campaign ended their worst season finish since 1980, a rejuvenated Scuderia Ferrari took to their private race track at Fiorano for an intense week of testing in their 2018 race-winning, season contender, the SF71H.
The five-day test featured seven of its drivers, including its official 2021 Formula One line-up, Charles Leclerc, and new recruit, Carlos Sainz Jr.. The 26-year-old Spaniard, who replaced four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, got his first taste of the infamous red machinery on Wednesday and completed over 100 laps.
“It’s impossible for me to put into words what went through my mind,” Sainz Jr. said in an Instagram post. “Seeing your name on a Ferrari car with your number is something that you will never forget, and seeing that was just incredible.”
Also in attendance was double world rally champion Carlos Sainz Sr. He watched his son’s debut in red alongside the Italian marque’s proven race-winner, 23-year-old Charles Leclerc, who was in the car on Tuesday after recovering from COVID-19.
Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA), took over from Sainz Jr. on Thursday, in preparation before his rookie Formula One season with the American team, Haas. The young German was crowned the FIA Formula 2 champion in 2020 after a fierce, season-long battle with fellow FDA driver Callum Ilott.
Ilott, who narrowly missed out on a Formula One seat for 2021, was recently announced as the reserve driver for the Maranello-based outfit and rounded off the week of testing on Friday.
Formula 2 drivers Robert Schwartzman, Marcus Armstrong and Guiliano Alesi shared track time last Monday, with the latter bidding farewell to the FDA.
The practice likely came in handy for Armstrong as he represented the Prancing Horse alongside F3 driver Arthur Leclerc, during the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix charity event over the weekend. The duo placed sixth and second respectively.
While it has been a busy week at the Ferrari headquarters, there was more news from the week before as the FDA announced the signing of 16-year-old Maya Weug as part of the “Girls on Track – Rising Stars” initiative undertaken by Ferrari and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
She is the first female member of the FDA and will be seen competing in the F4 championships later this year.
With strides already made in the first few weeks of 2021, all eyes now turn to the official F1 pre-season tests at Bahrain on March 12-14.
Bahrain is also set to be the season opener for 2021 on March 28, after the Australian Grand Prix was postponed to November due to COVID-19 concerns.