Charles Leclerc was left feeling that Ferrari’s competitors are “a step ahead” of them following the opening day of practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Monegasque – who remains in a battle with Sergio Perez for P2 in the World Championship – finished P3 on the timesheets in both sessions on Friday. Meanwhile, Robert Shwartzman got behind the wheel of Carlos Sainz’s F1-75 in FP1 before Sainz returned to action in FP2, where the Spaniard registered the sixth fastest time of the hour. Mercedes led a 1-2 in the opening session, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the pace later on. Leclerc reflects on Ferrari’s struggles Speaking after Friday’s running, Leclerc admitted that the areas in which Ferrari had faced difficulties had been expected, but also warned that their rivals seemed to have an edge over them. “Overall, our sessions were okay,” Leclerc said. “We struggled a bit with the race pace due to tyre degradation, which was expected. Our qualifying pace was a little better, but our competitors seem to be a step ahead. “We will use tomorrow’s practice to make further progress and give it our all for the last qualifying of the year.” Sainz: Plenty of margin to improve Sainz is keen to get Saturday’s final qualifying session of the 2022 F1 season underway, and hopes that the team can find some improvements before then. “It was a very busy FP2 for me after missing the first session, so it was all about catching up and getting into the rhythm as soon as possible,” Sainz commented. “The feeling on track wasn’t too bad but I know we’ve got plenty of margin to improve tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the last qualifying of the year.” Ferrari remain P2 in the Constructors’ Championship, though third-placed Mercedes closed the gap to 19 points following their 1-2 finish last time out in Brazil.