(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP
Melbourne: Charles Leclerc said Friday Ferrari were heading in the right direction, but still had their work cut out to be competitive after the first two practice sessions in Australia.
The Monaco driver came fifth in FP1 and improved to second in a rain-affected FP2 -- behind Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso but, in a boost, ahead of world champion Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
"We explored quite a few set-up variations today, which was interesting as it felt like we were going in a right direction," said Leclerc, who led from start to finish to win in Melbourne last year.
"That doesn't mean that we have the same pace as our competitors, as they still seem to have the upper hand for now.
"There is still a lot of work to do before we can get back in a proper fight but we will put all our energy in making further steps forward."
Ferrari were not only comprehensively beaten by both Red Bulls in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago but also outpaced by Alonso and both Mercedes, with Leclerc's Melbourne efforts an improvement.
Teammate Carlos Sainz came fifth in both sessions around Albert Park, completing just 12 laps in FP2 when Ferrari opted not to limit themselves in the rain with Sunday's race forecast to be dry.
Nevertheless, the Spaniard said they learned a lot and he was able to reacquaint himself with the walls and turns of the Albert Park track.
"This Friday was a bit compromised by the rain in FP2, so we decided not to do many laps in the rain, choosing instead to start preparing everything for tomorrow," said Sainz.
"On the other hand, FP1 was very useful for the team. We went through very different set-up configurations trying to improve the feeling with the car and to get to understand the current package a bit more.
"We are pushing hard to maximise everything and I look forward to the rest of the weekend."
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