Ferrari has been hiding plenty of pace so far in pre-season testing and expects Mercedes and Red Bull have been doing the same, according to Charles Leclerc.
The first test was comfortably led by Ferrari on the opening two days, with high mileage and impressive pace marking the Scuderia out as the early benchmark. Although Mercedes went quicker on the final day of running, Valtteri Bottas believes his team is slightly behind Ferrari, but Leclerc insists no team is showing anywhere near its true performance and that there is a lot more to come from the SF90.
“The performance has no sense for now, because it remains testing and they are probably not pushing, and we are not either,” Leclerc said. “We don’t know how much the others are sandbagging, so we’ll see at the first race. I think the main importance for these tests are to do the program of the day — and that is what we are doing, so we are happy.
“It is difficult (to compare to the 2018 car) because at the end I only drove the car once or twice but not many laps. It is difficult to compare both of the cars on different tracks but it feels good. The balance feels good.
“I think like Seb (Vettel) said, this doesn’t feel like a new car it feels like a quite established car so we’ll see. We need to keep pushing because as I said the other teams are sandbagging and we need to see how much they have but we are pretty happy with the car at the moment.”
While Leclerc has shown comparable pace to Vettel so far in testing, the 21-year-old admits he is still learning
“In terms of feedback I think it depends a little bit on drivers because obviously some are going really into the details, some are going less. I mean, Seb is in a bit of a different situation at the moment because he knows a lot of people in the team after spending so many years with them.
“It’s pretty new to me, even though I knew the team quite well because I was in the FDA (Ferrari Driver Academy) before. So I still need to know and understand which persons do what. That takes a little bit of time.
“In terms of driver feedback, Seb is incredibly strong with very big technical knowledge, so that I can definitely improve, but I think we are pushing massively. I’ve spent the last five or six weeks in the factory to try and understand the systems a bit more, which I think was one of my weak points last year; and yeah, just trying to get better with all of these things.”