McLaren & Ferrari ready to reignite historic rivalry after Bahrain battle

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McLaren and Ferrari welcome the chance to reignite their old rivalry in 2021 after battling in the season-opener.

From historic championship duels including Prost vs. Senna, Schumacher vs. Hakkinen and Hamilton vs. Massa, the two brands look set to cross paths on what they hope is a journey back to the top in the coming years.

In Bahrain, it was Charles Leclerc who had the early edge but ultimately Lando Norris who passed the Monegasque en route to fourth a place finish.

However, Leclerc's new teammate Carlos Sainz, who joined from McLaren after last season, was pleased to see the progress Ferrari had made.

“It’s encouraging because last year I remember that with that [McLaren] car I passed Charles fairly easy, so I remember how big the difference between the McLaren and Ferrari was," he said.

“I also think I had a much better pace than Daniel [Ricciardo] towards the end of the race. We were catching at more than half a second per lap and there are positive signs.

“There’s a big step compared to last year and now it’s a matter of keep refining the details, keep working hard back in Maranello and keep improving."

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Meanwhile, McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl isn't surprised to see Ferrari back at the front of the midfield this season despite their struggles in 2020.

"Definitely with everything we’ve seen, we are sure Ferrari has made a big step forward compared to last year, which is not unexpected," said the German.

"We always said we never underestimate the ability of a team like Ferrari with all the history, with all the resources they have, all the experience to come back quickly so it’s not a surprise. They have two great drivers as well.

“We are simply looking forward to battle with Ferrari again this year.

"How it will play out, exactly in detail, again I guess it’s simply too early to say but definitely looking forward to battling this great team."

Norris too is taking nothing for granted, warning McLaren will need to find improvements of their own to remain ahead, particularly in qualifying.

"We have a lot of work to do," he said. "If the other AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda was in Q3 they probably would’ve been ahead of us.

"We were ahead of Carlos [Sainz in qualifying] but if he did a good lap he should have been ahead of us. So it’s not like it is perfect. We have a lot of work to do, maybe more in qualifying than the race.

"If we were further back in the race it would’ve been more difficult, and we would not of look quite as good, so I don’t think we can get complacent just by having a good result.

"I am happy, there are a lot of positives, but also negatives to work on."