Carlos Sainz has hailed Charles Leclerc as "one of the strongest drivers on the grid" and believes his new Ferrari team-mate will serve as "a great benchmark" for the coming year.
The Scuderia made a bold move before last season had started in opting to recruit Sainz after taking the decision not to renew Sebastian Vettel's contract.
Sainz knows he faces a tough challenge in going up against the talented Leclerc who is seen as a future Formula 1 champion if given the car to fight for the title.
Asked in an interview, including GPFans Global, as to how much he was relishing battling Leclerc, Sainz replied: "I’m looking forward to it.
"He had a super-strong season, he knows the team, he knows the car very well and he looks to be honestly on top of his game.
"With the combination of youth and experience he has now, I think I’ll be up against the strongest, or definitely one of the strongest drivers on the grid.
"It will be a great benchmark for me. I will obviously start with a bit of a disadvantage not knowing the car, having very little winter testing, having a day and a half to prepare.
"I will have a lot of catching up to do in the first half of the year, in the first races, as I get to know the team and the car.
"But it will be great to have him as a benchmark to see how quickly I can get up to speed and helping the team to get better."
During his two years with McLaren prior to his Ferrari move, Sainz developed a close bond with Lando Norris both on and off track.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is hoping he will be able to forge a similar relationship with Leclerc, who proved in going up against four-time champion Vettel that he was willing to give as good as he received.
"Obviously my relationship with Lando is great and I enjoyed it a lot," assessed Sainz.
"Since the moment we met, we always had a good feeling with each other and we managed to translate that into a very healthy and competitive relationship at the track.
"We respect each other but we also kept it really competitive. This helped the team to move forward a lot. We always looked out for each other on track and brought a fair number of points for the team.
"That’s exactly what I want to carry over into Ferrari. I’ve always got on well with my team-mates. It’s never been an issue for me.
"I already get on very well with Charles and I have no problems with that. I’m sure I can also have a good relationship."
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