The Spaniard added that he feels his partner at the Scuderia is “one of the greatest, if not the greatest talent” in Formula 1 as well, and he is enjoying the task of trying to beat him.
It’s generally regarded that Sainz has performed at the highest level early in the season of the drivers to switch teams in time for 2021, with Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso seemingly not fully up to speed in their machinery just yet – but Sainz has been quick to dismiss their struggles as being newsworthy, adding that it’ll take time for them to adjust to their cars.
Sainz has only managed to out-qualify the Monegasque driver once in six races so far, with Leclerc going on to take pole position in both of the last two races.
The 26-year-old said now he’s seen how Leclerc operates within the Ferrari team, he can understand where that quality originates.
“If you want to test your qualifying speed against anyone, it is against Charles Leclerc,” Sainz said to BBC Sport. “I think he is the best qualifier on the grid.
“He is one of the greatest if not the greatest talent in Formula 1 now, and I am actually getting to learn now why he is performing at such a high level.
“It is not only speed. He also has a very good work ethic, he is very good at team building, he has a lot of strengths that make him such a strong driver.
“I am loving the challenge, to be honest, because I know there is no one better than him probably as a single lap with a Ferrari Formula 1 car.”
While other drivers are used to their current machinery, Sainz adds that, on a level playing field in the SF21, he’s unsure who would be able to beat him regularly – but that would also be the case throughout the grid.
He added: “I would say right now if you put any driver in a Ferrari car, it will be difficult [for them] to out-qualify Charles, because he has that three years’ experience, he knows exactly how to pull out a lap in Q3 [the final part of qualifying] with this car, he knows exactly what the car does and he has the talent to extract that performance with a Ferrari.
“Then, if you want to go and beat Max in the Red Bull it would be very complicated, and Lewis in the Mercedes and Lando in the McLaren – guys that are performing at their best with a car because they have the experience with that car.”