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Sainz says he feels much more prepared heading into 2023 as Leclerc underlines clear Ferrari target

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Carlos Sainz cut an upbeat figure when he fielded questions about his 2023 ambitions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, saying he enters the season opener feeling “definitely more prepared” than the same point last year.

Sainz experienced a rollercoaster 2022 campaign, starting the year off the pace set by Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc and enduring several accidents, before making steady progress to bag his first F1 pole positions and race win.

READ MORE: New Ferrari boss Vasseur admits he approached Sainz for Sauber drive – as he declares himself ‘very pleased’ with driver line-up

After a busy winter of training, Sainz’s upward trajectory appeared to continue at last week’s pre-season test in Sakhir, where he completed plenty of trouble-free laps in an SF-23 machine he hopes will bring him into title contention.

Asked by Sky Sports F1 if this is the best prepared he has felt for a new season in recent times, Sainz said: “In a way, yes – because I’ve given so much importance to these three days of testing.

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Carlos Sainz: The target is to start 'equal' to Red Bull to battle for the championship in 2023

“Both from a physical and mental point of view, but also with the approach, with the team, with my team in the test that we wanted to do – I do feel prepared, I feel ready.

“[I’m] definitely more prepared than last year, and with a good overall feeling, and when we put the car on the limit, if it will give me that last edge, or the last feeling that I need from it, we will only know on Saturday and Sunday.”

BUXTON: Why 2023 has all the ingredients to be an outstanding F1 season

Asked about the tyre changes for 2023, and referencing his early 2022 struggles, Sainz added: “I will adapt to whatever comes. This is a lesson learned from last year. There will be cars in your career that suit naturally, others that you need to adapt.

“[It’s] important to keep digging in yourself, keep amplifying your window as a racing driver. [It’s] something that I improved last year, and I look forward to doing it again this year, if it is necessary.”

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 25: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-23 on track

Ferrari will be aiming to wrestle the title away from Red Bull in 2023

Meanwhile, on the other side of the garage, Leclerc made clear that nothing but title success will suffice for Ferrari in 2023 – as the Scuderia look to end a championship drought that stretches back to 2008.

“We did loads of tests during testing, which helped us better understand the car, which was really, really important for us,” said Leclerc, who added that the team gained “loads of answers”.

BEYOND THE GRID: Charles Leclerc on driving Schumacher's Ferrari, his title hopes, and how he switches off from F1

“In terms of pecking order, I have my idea, not supported by engineer data, but my idea. I feel like Red Bull is a little bit ahead, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s only the first race of the season [and] the season is extremely long.

“As I’ve said many times, last year we finished second in the drivers’ and constructors’ championship, now the next step to improve is being a world champion, so this is still our target.”

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