Leclerc sets F1 championship target but feels Red Bull 'a little bit ahead'

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Charles Leclerc insists winning the Formula 1 championship is his target in 2023 even if Red Bull begins "a little bit ahead".

Ferrari had a solid pre-season test in Bahrain and has high hopes as they aim to unleash more power from the engine thanks to reliability updates.

Concerns remain over their race performance, however, with tyre wear a notable issue compared to many of their rivals, but Leclerc is upbeat...

“We did loads of tests during testing, which helped us better understand the car, which was really, really important for us,” the Monegasque said via on Thursday.

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“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.”

As for Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, he is eager to make a much stronger start in 2023 than in 2022, when several errors cost him dearly.

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And the Spaniard does feel better prepared than ever before heading into the first race of a season.

“In a way, yes – because I’ve given so much importance to these three days of testing," he explained to Sky Sports.

“Both from a physical and mental point of view, but also 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.”