Charles Leclerc says he was woken up to news that he would stand-in for Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel during the opening Formula 1 pre-season test.

Leclerc was not originally due to drive Ferrari’s 2020 challenger until the second day of the first test but was drafted in to deputise for Vettel after the German reported he was unwell early on Wednesday morning.

The Monegasque completed 131 laps but finished an understated 11th in the timesheets as Mercedes dominated the first day of official track running in 2020. Leclerc ended up 1.313s off the pace of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton’s benchmark.

“6.45am this morning I got the call and I was sleeping at that time,” Leclerc explained.

“It was pretty late but in the end it did not change much. For the mechanics it was not easy because to change the driver fit it always takes a bit of time.

“They had to do a late change but in terms of the plan it was basically the same.”

Leclerc revealed Ferrari has opted for a different approach to its pre-season programme this year after focusing more on performance during the 2019 tests.

He said the Italian squad was placing greater emphasis on ensuring its on-track data correlated as expected with its wind tunnel figures.

“We changed a little bit our approach compared to last year,” Leclerc said.

“Last year the testing was great but the first race was a bit less great and I think we’ve learnt a few things on this.

“This year we’ve decided to focus a bit more on ourselves and trying to learn the car as much as possible in these first days and then focus on performance a bit later on and we will see if that pays off. 

“So it was a bit different,” he added. “I think last year we were a bit more on the performance side and this year we are taking it more step-by-step.

“For now it’s a positive first day but very difficult to compare.”

Asked if he feels Ferrari’s SF1000 is a step forward compared to its predecessor, Leclerc replied: “For now it’s quite difficult to comment as we didn’t focus on performance but more on trying to know the car at it’s best, before working on performance.

"So for now it’s difficult to say but for sure there’s been a lot of work. It can only be an evolution. But to tell you where exactly I can’t tell you because we didn’t push the car yet.”