Carlos Sainz has faced a challenging 2022 campaign, one that has seen the Spaniard finish behind his Ferrari team-mate on a number of occasions, resulting in calls that Sainz should be the team’s number two driver.
Sainz appears to be somewhat undervalued at the Maranello-based outfit, with the 28-year-old having been criticised by Ferrari president John Elkann.
Elkann recently referred to Leclerc as the team’s lead driver, whilst failing to even acknowledge the team’s other driver.
Elkann’s comments differ from team principal Mattia Binotto’s belief, with the Italian having maintained throughout the season that Leclerc and Sainz are equals at the team.
Leclerc was certainly stronger than Sainz at the start of the season, as the Monegasque won two of the opening three races of the season, whilst Sainz claimed two podiums and a retirement.
Despite Leclerc being third in the standings and Sainz being fifth, the pair are only separated by 50 points, a total that could change dramatically in the final four races of the year.
Their stats for 2022 are actually very interestingly similar, with Sainz having stepped foot on the podium eight times this campaign, with one of those eight being a victory at the British Grand Prix.
Leclerc has only finished on the podium one additional time compared to his team-mate; however, three of his nine podiums were victories.
Sainz has suffered five retirements, though, compared to Leclerc’s three, with three of Sainz’s retirements due to driver error rather than a reliability issue.
Regardless of the stats, Sainz has revealed that he doesn’t understand the criticism he’s been bombarded with this year, with the Spaniard explaining that he feels like people want him to “let Leclerc win”.
“I can understand that after the first few races, Charles was clearly one step ahead in both qualifying and race pace,” he said.
“But in the middle of the season I improved a lot. I started getting into the fight more and it was kind of frustrating in a way because it seemed like some people didn’t want me there.
“I was criticised for not being there, and when I started being there, some wondered what I was doing up front and thought I should let Charles win everything.
“It was frustrating, especially from the press. Luckily I don’t pay too much attention to what is said,” Sainz added.
Binotto has stuck by Sainz’s side all year despite being blanked by the manufacturer’s hierarchy, with the Spaniard believing Binotto in particular “recognises” the strength of having two equal drivers.
“Mattia (Binotto) and the team recognise that it is one of our strengths,” said Sainz.
“But it is clear that there were some people who follow Ferrari who did not want there to be two drivers. Perhaps that is a question for others though because I am convinced that the best thing for the team is to have two drivers as close as possible to each other.”
It would’ve been interesting to see how the year would’ve panned out for both Sainz and Leclerc had Ferrari not had a somewhat disastrous year.
The Italians have suffered from countless strategic errors and reliability problems, whereas rivals Red Bull seem to be a well-oiled machine.
As a result of this, Max Verstappen cruised to his second consecutive World Championship at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, whilst Sainz crashed out on the first lap.
Sainz hailed Red Bull for essentially nailing every aspect of a Grand Prix weekend, with the Austrians “doing things perfectly”.
“It’s the car, it’s the driver, it’s the team, it’s the strategy, it’s the pitstops,” Sainz added.
“They do so many races without making a mistake – doing things perfectly. On top of that, when Max fails or spins, they are able to solve it quickly.
“That’s the difference and the reason they are dominating.”