F1's development race this season has yet to kick off in earnest, but when it does Charles Leclerc is confident Ferrari will hold its own against rival Red Bull Racing at the top of the field.
Ferrari's F1-75 package has proved itself to be the class of the field, with Leclerc winning in Bahrain and in Melbourne and finishing runner-up to Max Verstappen in Jeddah.
However, Ferrari's ability to uphold its momentum going forward will largely depend on the performance gains it will be able to extract from its crucial development programme.
Leclerc is expecting a tight battle with Red Bull on this front as the two teams pile on the upgrades throughout the season. But the Monegasque sees no reason why those in Maranello who designed the winning F1-75 would not be successful in their efforts to carry its development forward.
"To keep up with Red Bull in terms of development is going to be difficult, but it's the same team that did this car that will work on the development for this year’s car, so I am confident," he said, quoted by Motorsport.com.
"There is no reason for us to be on the back foot because we've done a great job, or the guys at Maranello have done a great job, building up this car for this year.
"There are some developments coming and I'm confident that it will go in the right direction. So yeah, I wouldn't focus too much on the others. I think we need to focus on ourselves."
Ferrari has endured a difficult past few seasons, especially in 2020 when it struggled in the thick of F1's midfield.
But according to Leclerc, Ferrari took away a lot of experience and many good lessons from those leans years, findings and practices that it is putting to good use today.
"Since the last two years, I've really seen a jump in the way we've analysed every weekend: in the way we have identified also our weaknesses and how quick we were to react to try and get better in the places where we were struggling," he said.
"So yeah, I am confident that the team can do a great job with development this year."
As for his own new-found status as F1's championship leader, Leclerc admits that his mindset as a front-runner has evolved thanks to having a winning package at his disposal.
"Obviously, I've been in this situation in the junior categories but then to be in this situation in Formula 1 means a lot, and especially after the last few years, and especially with a team like Ferrari. It feels incredible," said the four-time Grand Prix winner.
"Obviously, the mindset is a bit different compared to the last two years because now I know that underneath me I've got a car that is capable of winning.
"I don't really have to overdo things or to do something extremely special and spectacular to actually get one or two positions, because I know that it's in the car and I just have to do the job.
"So the mindset is a little bit different this year."