‘The smoothest ones for sure’: Leclerc reveals if he thinks Ferrari are faster than Red Bull

Ferrari enjoyed their "smoothest" pre-season since Charles Leclerc joined the team three years ago.

Charles Leclerc insists that Ferrari are not the strongest team coming out of pre-season, placing that tag on Red Bull ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ferrari managed an impressive 787 laps over the course of testing in Barcelona and Bahrain, and appeared to find a solution to the “porpoising” issue that the teams encountered particularly in Spain.

There were several different solutions found to the bouncing problems, one of which being stiffer suspension from Mercedes, which former designer Gary Anderson noted was not as smart a rectification as Red Bull’s decision to run more of a rake setup, which had been mostly diminished by the new technical regulations.

Carlos Sainz ended day two in Bahrain second fastest after the Monegasque had gone quickest on the second day in Barcelona, and he noted that this pre-season had been his most trouble-free with the Scuderia since joining in 2019.

“[They are] the ones where we’ve had the least problems for sure, the smoothest ones for sure too,” he said in Friday’s press conference.

“Then again, I don’t want to say it’s our best because then people straight away come to the conclusion that we are ahead of everyone [and] it’s not the case.”

He is adamant that the Maranello squad are not quite on the pace of Red Bull, but his lack of a mention of Mercedes might suggest that his confidence of being at least the second fastest.

“I think we are a bit behind Red Bull but in terms of smoothness and the amount of laps, it definitely is [our best pre-season],” he explained.

“It’s been a very smooth test, [we’ve set] a lot of laps; everything that we wanted to test, we did so yeah it’s great.”

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Mercedes have persistently painted Ferrari as the favourites this year, but whether this is truly the case will be revealed during qualifying on Saturday.