Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has suggested that Charles Leclerc would have finished higher in the standings than team-mate Carlos Sainz had he been less unlucky in 2021.
Sainz joined Leclerc at Ferrari in 2021, with the Spaniard being signed as Sebastian Vettel’s replacement.
The 27-year-old finished fifth in the Drivers’ Standings in his debut season with the Scuderia, while Leclerc ended the season in P7.
However, only 5.5 points separated the pair over the course of the season – and Binotto has been quick to point out that Leclerc missed out on a considerable number of points due to bad luck.
Commenting on Leclerc’s performance in 2021 – his third season with Ferrari and his fourth year in Formula 1 – Binotto said: “I’m very happy to see the progress he has made this season.
“He’s always been very fast in the quali, even in the last part of the season where maybe Carlos was challenging him a bit more, he has always been very fast.”
Missed opportunities for Leclerc and Ferrari
Continuing, the Ferrari boss emphasised that Leclerc missed out on a chunk of points in Monaco and Budapest due to bad luck.
Specifically, in Monaco, Leclerc was unable to start the race due a mechanical issue with his car which was inflicted as a result of a crash in qualifying.
As for Budapest, Leclerc was taken out of the race by Lance Stroll at the first corner of the opening lap in wet conditions.
“We should not forget that in his season, there are a couple of examples, which is Monaco and Budapest, where he didn’t score but I think he has been unlucky as a driver [on] those occasions,” the Ferrari team principal stressed.
“Without that, it’s difficult to say what he would have finished at the end of the race, but maybe at least 40 points [are] missing on his classification.
“So without that again I think he would have been a lot further ahead in the championship.”
Binotto added that Leclerc considerably developed as a driver in 2021, with his tyre management ability and race pace improving, among other things.
“He has learned how to manage the tyres, how to manage the race situations and [improved his] race pace. So I’m quite pleased with the progress he made,” he concluded.
After a torrid 2020 campaign, Ferrari finished 2021 third in the Constructors’ Championship, but it was their second win-less season, with the Scuderia’s last victory coming at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.