Carlos Sainz has labelled the podium potential of Ferrari in the coming season as the "million-dollar question" ahead of his first campaign with the Scuderia.
Ferrari launches its SF21 on Wednesday [March 10] ahead of pre-season testing in Bahrain which it hopes will be a considerable improvement on the SF1000 of last year that led to the team suffering its worst campaign for 40 years.
While it is known that Ferrari has made significant modifications to its power unit, and hopes are high of a resurgence this year, Sainz remains sceptical for now.
Asked as to Ferrari's podium prospects, Sainz replied: “That is the million-dollar question that no one can answer right now.
"We will not know until we go to Bahrain, but not the Bahrain test, I would say more the race.
“I think especially with testing nowadays, with the amount of fuel loads that you can put, engine modes, it will be very difficult to take any kind of conclusions."
In pre-season testing last year, though, there were clear signs Ferrari would struggle, with team principal Mattia Binotto refusing at the time to counter such a view.
With an underperforming power unit as the root cause of Ferrari's problems, it also affected customer teams Haas and Alfa Romeo.
Sainz, though, has revealed to seeing "positive signs" in the data of the new system to suggest this year would yield improved results.
“I have been following very closely the progress of the team during the latest months and have been trying to give my absolute support and help and there are some encouraging signs," added Sainz.
"There is some encouraging data coming out but at the same time, we do not know what the others are doing.
“It is the same question every winter that you don’t know where the others are and even though you might be progressing you don’t know if the others are progressing more or less.
“But I’m confident. I think we just need to be a bit patient and see how it goes."
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