Ferrari star Charles Leclerc insisted rivals Red Bull hold the advantage heading into the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Leclerc's Scuderia have opened up a 40-point lead in the constructors' championship after two races, with the Monegasque driver and Red Bull's Max Verstappen claiming one win apiece across Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Ferrari pair Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are also first and second in the drivers' championship, but the former is expecting a tough challenge at the redeveloped Albert Park in Melbourne.

Formula One returns to Australia for the first time in two years, with the track modified to make it much faster than it used to be, which Leclerc feels will not work in Ferrari's favour.

"Overall the track characteristics here are not fitting very well with our [car], but everything is to play for," Leclerc said.

"I still think we will be in the mix – it will still be very close."

Leclerc boasts a 12-point lead over team-mate Sainz in the drivers' standings, having secured victory in Bahrain and second in Jeddah, and reigning champion Verstappen sits a further eight back.

But Leclerc reiterated that Red Bull will be the favourites on Sunday, given Verstappen's team appear the leaders on straights and Albert Park has removed a chicane while widening some corners.

"I think the old one would have suited us better," he added. "But it is the way it is and we will try to maximise everything as always, and hopefully Imola [after the Australian GP] will be a track that suits us a little bit better.

"It is not like it is going to be a big gap. If we do the perfect job, everything is possible."

Sainz echoed Leclerc's sentiments as he labelled Red Bull the favourites.

"Our car has been strong in all the circuits we have been to so far, but it's true in Jeddah, with more straight-line [speed], the Red Bull looked like the better car and [had] the better balance in terms of top speed and corner speed," Sainz said. 

"So, given how long the straights have become here, maybe they are a bit more up for it. But I think we can still do a good job."

While Ferrari appear concerned with the modifications in Melbourne, DRS strategy is also expected to play a significant role in the third race if the opening two are anything to go by.

Leclerc has attempted to utilise the DRS overtaking aid in both those races, letting Verstappen through before the detection points and then benefiting in overtaking zones, and he expects a similar tactical battle to follow again.

"We have seen in the past two races this strategy with DRS, and I am pretty sure we will see it even more here, because basically all the straights have a DRS zone, so overtaking will be a thing and clever racing can make a big difference here," he said.