Charles Leclerc says he was oblivious last season to the frequent lampooning of Ferrari in the media and in the F1 paddock, insisting the Italian outfit was focused instead on improving its performance.
In 2020, Ferrari endured arguably its worst season in F1 since the early 80s, the Italian outfit concluding its beleaguered campaign a lowly sixth in the Constructors' standings, with just three podiums to its credit, all achieved by Leclerc.
The team had been hit hard in the second half of 2019 by a technical directive issued by the FIA that reined in a power advantage enjoyed by Ferrari's engine that many considered as illicit.
The shenanigans associated with its power unit generated widespread criticism and the changes significantly weighed on the House of Maranello's results, not to mention its image and reputation.
However, as it sought a reset, the team's crews worked hard in the second half of last year and over the winter, and their efforts have gone a long way towards putting the Scuderia back on the right track.
This season, progress has taken hold and Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz are now regular top-ten contenders while the red squad battles rival McLaren at the top of the midfield.
Asked if he felt that Ferrari was no longer the laughingstock of the paddock, Leclerc said that he was oblivious to the outside mockery.
"I have never really considered people that have been laughing at us," he told Reuters. "We have been focusing on ourselves.
"Last year was definitely a difficult season to accept where we were but I think the team has done a great job by accepting pretty quickly that we took a step back and have been working in the best way possible since that moment.
"This year you can see that. The team has made a step in the right direction and it shows that all the work that people have done back in Maranello and at the track is paying off. We can see it on the track.
"The road is still long and we want to be fighting for the first positions soon. The way we work is the right way and we just need to keep working as a team."
So far this season, Leclerc has secured a pair of fourth place finishes and a couple of sixths, and the 23-year-old who heads to his home race next week at Monaco reckons that Ferrari's SF21 is a good car which does not suffer from any specific weaknesses.
"I don’t think there’s a big weakness like there was maybe a bit more last year on the race pace," he said.
"I feel like this year it’s a lot more balanced and we are actually stronger in qualifying and in the race."
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