Carlos Sainz has reasserted that he is not at Ferrari to play second fiddle following suggestions that the team should start prioritising Charles Leclerc.
Sainz has been out-qualified by his team-mate nine times this season, but he took pole in Silverstone before winning the race, and the pair got their elbows out with one another in the Austria sprint race.
The 27-year-old has started to even the pace deficit that was seen at the beginning of the season, but Italian media has been urging Ferrari to set Sainz into a backup role to that Leclerc can challenge Max Verstappen for the title.
There is a 36-point difference between the Scuderia drivers after Leclerc’s win in Austria while Sainz failed to finish due to a reliability failure, but this does not change the fact that he is not the number two driver.
“None of that has come to me,” Sainz told Marca when asked if Leclerc is now the first choice.
“I arrive every weekend knowing that I can fight freely with Charles, although you always respect your team-mate more.
“I come here with the same mentality.”
In the race in Silverstone, Leclerc was evidently quicker than the Spaniard, and was eventually allowed through with the pair under threat from Sir Lewis Hamilton.
The team then made a huge blunder with the 24-year-old’s strategy under a late Safety Car, opening the door for Sainz to pass him and win.
However, the former McLaren driver reveals that there was not as much disparity between the drivers as it might have first appeared.
“In some parts yes, and others not, in the first stint Charles was faster, and then I was,” explained Sainz when asked if Leclerc was quicker in that race.
“The good thing is that before, at the beginning of the season, it didn’t happen and now it happens and it’s because I’ve improved and I know I have to keep taking steps forward and I think I have room for it.
“When I discover a couple of other things that I lack in the car, I think I can have a very strong second part of the championship.”
Sainz topped the second practice session at this weekend’s French Grand Prix, after Leclerc had gone quickest in the first one.