Charles Leclerc believes the Alfa Romeo Sauber team maximised its potential to finish 13th in Sunday’s Formula 1 season-opener in Australia.

2017 Formula 2 champion Leclerc made his F1 debut at Albert Park on Sunday with Sauber, having qualified 18th.

The Monegasque driver managed to slowly rise through the field as drivers ahead hit trouble, as well as passing Williams’ Lance Stroll en route to 13th at the chequered flag.

“I am very happy about my day,” Leclerc said. “The start was not ideal – I had to catch up with the competitors ahead of me and slowly work my way forward.

“We maximised our potential and had a consistently good pace. I was able to overtake some of the cars, which was fun.

“Overall, it has been a positive weekend. We have made good progress since Friday and are at a good starting point.

“I have learned a lot and feel confident going into the next round in Bahrain.”

Leclerc’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was forced to retire from the race after just four laps due to a hydraulic issue.

“The balance of the whole race weekend is positive, especially considering the good progress we have made since Friday,” team principal Frederic Vasseur said.

“Regarding the race we have mixed feelings because Marcus was doing an impressive job after a good start. We will now analyse all the data.

“Congratulations to Charles for his first race in Formula 1. It was important for him to finish and he did a great job with tyre management and fuel saving.

“All in all, it’s a good feeling for the team and we are very motivated as we look forward to Bahrain.”