Charles Leclerc does not expect the true pecking order of the 2019 Formula 1 season to be revealed until qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. 

Ferrari’s new recruit previously suggested its chief rival Mercedes has been sandbagging throughout testing and has refused to read too much into the timings as a result. 

Leclerc set the pace on the penultimate morning of pre-season testing as he recorded the fastest lap of the winter so far on a 1m16.231s, and the Monegasque said his eye-catching lap time was not “flat out”.

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“Obviously I think as every team we are not flat out,” he explained. 

“There’s still some margin, a bit obviously in myself. I still have to learn, I get more comfortable with the car lap after lap and with the car itself, so it’s looking good for now.

“I think we are looking strong at the moment whether they [Mercedes] are sandbagging more or less or whatsoever we don’t know,” Leclerc added. 

“It’s difficult to say as it’s testing and we’ll only know in qualifying [in Melbourne] but for now we are pretty happy with the job we’re doing.” 

Asked if he would bet with his own money on Ferrari being the fastest, Leclerc replied: “At the moment I’m happy, so yes!” 

Leclerc racked up 56 laps on his return to the cockpit of Ferrari’s SF90 as the team recovered from its truncated running on Wednesday following Sebastian Vettel’s hefty crash. 

“The car hasn’t changed since day one to be honest,” Leclerc added. 

“It feels comfortable - from day one the balance is pretty nice and it hasn’t changed today, so it’s a positive day. 

“Especially after the lack of running yesterday it’s a good morning for us, and it’s good to be on top but it doesn’t mean anything.”

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