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Leclerc and Sainz give their verdicts on where Ferrari stand relative to Red Bull

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari walks in the Paddock during

Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have shared their initial feelings about the anticipated fight at the front of the F1 field in 2024, believing that Red Bull remain the team to beat.

As per most outfits, Ferrari are splitting each test day between their two drivers, with Sainz (who ran in the afternoon) and Leclerc (morning) ending up third and seventh respectively on Wednesday’s timesheets, which Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped by more than a second.

READ MORE: Sainz sets pace on Day 2 of pre-season testing as he improves on Leclerc’s earlier benchmark

On Thursday, Leclerc ended a curtailed morning session in P1, having run over a drain cover that necessitated a track inspection, while Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, got up to speed in the RB20.

Asked if Ferrari have secured all the answers they wanted to so far, despite the aforementioned drain incident, Leclerc said: “Yes. At the end we went through all our programme, which is a good thing.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track

Leclerc reckons Red Bull are still “the reference” in terms of F1’s pecking order

“We have done big changes on the car, and that’s what we were focusing on for these first two days. Tomorrow we’ll go and fine-tune a little bit more the car and go into the details. But the first two days went well for now.

“However, let’s be careful because saying that the two first days went well doesn’t mean anything in terms of competitiveness. We need to wait and see for that. My initial feeling is that Red Bull remains the reference and ahead for now.”

TECH ANALYSIS: Why Red Bull’s dominant opening day of testing wasn’t quite all it seemed

Pushed on his run plan for the final day of testing, the Monegasque stated: “I think the first performance runs we will be seeing is in qualifying next week. But you always every day are trying to get a little bit more out of the car.

Leclerc: 'Red Bull remains the reference'

“Tomorrow is the last day, so we’ll hopefully centre the car a bit more in terms of set-up to where we think it’s the best and we’ll fine tune it in order to be fully ready for next week.”

As for team mate Sainz, who topped the afternoon/evening session, the Spaniard was encouraged by his early mileage aboard the SF-24 as he prepares for his final season with the Scuderia.

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“I feel like yesterday we had an optimal day out on track,” he commented. “We ran a completely new car that seemed to be in a good window straight out of the box. We scanned the whole set-up, the whole up and down with the car, and it seemed to respond and react well.”

He added: “With the performance, I obviously have no idea, I just can tell that the Red Bull looks very quick, but apart from that, nothing else [can be determined yet].”

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