Carlos Sainz doesn't expect to be on par with Charles Leclerc during the early stages of the 2021 Formula 1 season as he inches closer to his Ferrari debut.
The Spaniard will replace Sebastian Vettel, who joined Aston Martin, after helping McLaren clinch third place in the constructors' championship, but he's aware it may take some time for him to settle into his new surroundings and challenge Leclerc.
"I'm looking forward to it, mainly because he's probably one of the drivers on better form on the grid," the Spaniard told Crash.net. "You could argue he's 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 one-day-and-a-half to prepare the season.
"I will have a lot of catch up to do in the first half of the year, in the first races, as I get to know the team and car. But it will be great to have him as a benchmark and see how quickly I can get up to speed and keep helping the team get better."
Sainz formed a strong relationship with Lando Norris while at McLaren, and he's hoping to replicate that with Leclerc as Ferrari look to bounce back from a disappointing 2020 campaign.
"Obviously my relationship with Lando is great and I enjoyed it," he added. "Since the moment we met, we always had a good feeling with each other and we have managed to translate that into a very healthy and competitive relationship also at the track. We respect each other but we also keep it really competitive and really respectful.
"That's exactly what I want to carry over into Ferrari. I've always got on well with my teammates, it's never been an issue for me and I already got on very well with Charles and I have no problems with that and I'm sure I can also have a good relationship there."