Carlos Sainz to drive $600,000 Ferrari in Belgium, can he take another victory?

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz grabbed his maiden F1 victory in Silverstone earlier this season.

Carlos Sainz has the pleasure of driving a Ferrari Roma SF90 during race week ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix and, just recently, he has been finding a lot more pleasure in driving his F1-75.

The Spaniard’s form has become a lot less erratic in the last few rounds, and he has started to find consistency with his car, but this was not an easy point to get to.

The 27-year-old generally impressed last season, ending the season two championship positions ahead of Charles Leclerc having scored four podiums to the Monegasque’s one.

Fifth in the championship, sealed by his podium in the bizarre season finale in Abu Dhabi, was symbolic of a tremendous first campaign in red, and he was looking for even better this season.

READ: Can Lewis Hamilton help Mercedes beat Ferrari to second?

After 13 rounds of the 2022 season, he sits fifth again, only this time Leclerc is up in second, and the year has been a “rollercoaster” for the former McLaren driver, in his own words.

He sealed a one-two for the team in Bahrain when he finished second to Leclerc, Ferrari taking their first win and one-two finish since 2019, and ended on the podium again in Saudi Arabia as Max Verstappen won the race.

It was from there though, that the tide began to get a bit rough. Sainz span out in the early laps of the Australian Grand Prix having suffered issues in qualifying, before crashing in qualifying in Imola two weeks later.

Daniel Ricciardo compounded that by wiping the Spaniard out off the start, but Sainz returned to the podium in Miami, despite a crash in practice that knocked his confidence.

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A Spanish spin at his home race saw him finish fourth behind George Russell after Leclerc had retired from the lead with a reliability failure, before strategic errors took another win from the 24-year-old, and handed it to Sergio Perez as Sainz finished second.

Since then, reliability failures have struck Sainz’s side of the garage in both Baku and Austria, and the latter of those two is where he feels his championship challenge was thrown “in the bin.”

Indeed, the engine blowout in Spielberg forced him to start from the back in Le Castellet, but he might have turned P5 into a podium had the team been more decisive on his strategy.

Mistakes, reliability and strategy have all played a part this season for the 27-year-old, but his good performance in Monaco seemed like a springboard for better results.

That arrived in Silverstone where he claimed his first pole and race win after a chaotic race that twice saw him lose the lead before gaining it back, and he has now out-qualified Leclerc three times in the last five rounds.

However, Max Verstappen’s eight wins have now put him 102 points clear of his former Toro Rosso team-mate, who likely knows his title challenge is done.

READ: Mattia Binotto explains why he’s ‘not surprised’ by Ferrari’s engine failures

But he may yet finish second this year. Just 32 points separate Leclerc and sixth-placed Sir Lewis Hamilton in the battle for the runner-up spot, and it really could go to anyone.

The Scuderia’s recent capitulation has opened the door for Hamilton and Russell to score eight podiums in the last six races, and just 30 points stand between the Silver Arrows and the Italian side after Mercedes’ woeful start to the year.

For Sainz, his recent performances have proven that he is extremely capable of delivering results, and that he can compete with Leclerc to be number one at Ferrari.

With Leclerc 80 points behind Verstappen, it is possible that Ferrari will use Sainz to help Leclerc, so a victory in any of the final nine rounds of this year may be at a premium, but it is certainly not impossible.

His strategic intelligence, his ability to pull out a superb qualifying lap, and his capacity to capitalise on mistakes in front of him make him a real contender for second in the championship.

He very likely needs a win for that though, and this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix is as good a chance as any to get that.