RACE DEBRIEF

    Formula 1 hasn’t run at Monaco since 2019, and there was a touch of 2019 about the time sheets after Free Practice 2 on Thursday, as Ferrari found themselves right at the pointy end of the standings, coming from nowhere to take a comfortable one-two. But are they a genuine threat this weekend? According to Carlos Sainz, they just might be…

    Sainz, who’s never finished outside the points in Monaco, gave an indication of Ferrari’s pace when he claimed a surprise P2 in Free Practice 1, his time just 0.119s off the Red Bull of Sergio Perez. But then the Spaniard followed that up by heading FP2 for a large portion of the session, before being pipped by a tenth late on by team mate Charles Leclerc – the Ferraris the only cars yet to lap below 1m 12s in Monaco this weekend.

    READ MORE: Leclerc says Ferrari’s Monaco pace ‘too good to believe’ as local star overcomes gearbox issues to head FP2

    And Sainz was even more impressed with his performance given how much he’d been having to adapt his driving style behind the wheel of the Ferrari SF21.

    “I was used to a different car here last time I was in Monaco, with a very different balance, and now I arrive here, and the balance with the Ferrari I’m trying to chase here in Monaco is quite different,” said Sainz. “I had to re-adapt, get my references back, change a bit the driving style and build the confidence with that little by little.

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    Sainz said he'd had to adapt his usual Monaco driving style to suit the Ferrari

    “[The confidence] is there. I had a little moment in FP1,” added Sainz, referring to his love-tap on the barriers at the exit of the Swimming Pool, “but thank God it didn’t take any confidence out of me, and I was quite on it in FP2. FP2 was a bit less clean because there was always traffic, always bunching up in the last sector, but I managed to get my run plan done. And honestly, I was feeling quite at home.”

    Sainz’s former McLaren team mate Lando Norris revealed after the session that he hadn’t been surprised by Ferrari’s pace, adding that he’d even texted Sainz ahead of the weekend telling him he had a good chance of taking victory here.

    READ MORE: Norris tips former team mate Sainz for potential Monaco win as Ferrari top Thursday practice

    But with teams having the whole of Friday to hone their set-ups, did Sainz really feel that Ferrari could mix it with the Red Bulls and Mercedes come qualifying and the race?

    2021 Monaco GP FP2: Onboard for Charles Leclerc's fastest lap

    “We definitely look very close to being a genuine threat,” said Sainz. “I think we need to wait until FP3 because things change a lot from Thursday to Saturday here. There’s some drivers that sandbag a bit on Thursday, just because they want to take it easy, then suddenly on Saturday, like Lewis [Hamilton] always does his super-quick [lap] so we will see.

    READ MORE: 5 things we learned from Thursday practice for the Monaco Grand Prix

    “But it’s nice to see at least that we are close to the front, and that we’re actually playing around at the front. It’s encouraging for the team and there’s some positive signs that the car in the corners is not that bad.”

    Ferrari will hope that a strong performance in Monaco will help them close down the five-point gap to third-placed rivals McLaren in the constructors’ standings, with Lando Norris having ended FP2 a full 0.695s adrift of Leclerc’s fastest lap in P6.