When asked if Ferrari was shocked by its early competitive outing, Leclerc, who led the way in FP1, said: “Yes, we are surprised, but we are not getting carried away either.
“It’s only Friday and we expect the other teams to show more their true potential tomorrow, so we cannot get carried away, but it is true that we did not expect this kind of performance on Friday at least.
“It’s a good start, but now we need to focus on ourself and hopefully produce the same tomorrow.”
Leclerc was pipped to pole position and the final place on the podium by Sainz at the Italian Grand Prix, having struggled with the balance of his SF-23 car all weekend.
The Monegasque conceded he had been forced to copy his team-mate’s set-up direction in Monza, but he claims that he has been content with the handling of Ferrari’s 2023 car from the outset in Singapore.
“It felt quite good straight from the start, it changes quite a bit from Monza where I struggled, I had a very difficult car on Friday, but we learnt from it, we went the other way for here and the balance felt great straight away,” he expressed.
“So very happy with the change of approach and it’s good to build the weekend starting on a Friday like this. But again, we still need to do a step forward for tomorrow, so that’s where we are focusing everything at the moment and let’s see what we can do.”
Pressed on how close tomorrow’s qualifying hour could be, Leclerc, a two-time pole sitter in Singapore, stated: “It’s going to be very close, for sure. I expect the others to be much faster tomorrow, so let’s see.
“I hope we won’t have any bad surprises and that we will be less competitive than what we think we are at the moment, but for now everything looks good, so I hope it will be the same tomorrow.”
While Carlos Sainz admitted he had also been stunned by Ferrari’s searing speed on Friday, the Spaniard contends that Singapore has typically thrown up surprises due to being an outlier on the F1 calendar.
“I think you always need to arrive to Singapore a little open-minded,” he argued.
“We’ve seen in the past very weird performance swings at this track because it’s a very particular track and so far it looks like it’s suiting our car well and it’s going well with the way we hit the ground running in FP1 and we could just finetune the set-up a bit for FP2 and be a bit quicker.
“It looks good, but I do believe the track is gonna change a lot for tomorrow, it’s gonna ramp up the grip a lot and it’s all about who finds the best set-up for tomorrow.”
Many teams have utilised the first flyway round outside of the European leg of the campaign to bring a raft of upgrades.
Sainz believes that several sides could take a substantial step forward in performance tomorrow purely by better understanding the new parts they have adopted on their cars.
“It definitely looks like there’s people out there that have brought a lot of upgrades, so we might see that tomorrow they fine-tune them, and they understand them better and they find a lot of performance,” Sainz acknowledged.
Meanwhile, Ferrari has only introduced a minor front-wing update, but Sainz insists an extension of the team’s set-up work in Zandvoort has put the team on the right track for the remainder of the weekend.
“For us, we haven’t really brought anything, the front wing is just a small tweak to what we had,” he continued. “Yeah, we’re focusing on understanding our car around here.
“We tested a couple of things of set-up that I wanted to try around this kind of track and it looks like it worked and it’s going in the right direction, so let’s see if we can put another good lap tomorrow and be on the front row.”
Ferrari’s encouraging start in Singapore means the team could be in a position to put an end to Red Bull’s unbeaten run, with the reigning champions enduring a trying day.
Questioned on whether he thinks Red Bull is in as much trouble as it appears, Sainz responded: “No, I don’t. I don’t believe when you look at their long run pace already they already looked the strongest car, so I think once they sort out the one-lap pace they’ll be fighting for pole.
“Hopefully, we can be in that fight, but it also looks like Aston [Martin], McLaren, [and] Mercedes should also be in that fight, so I think we’re in for an exciting day tomorrow, and hopefully we can get the best out of it.”