AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost believes that Charles Leclerc has an edge over Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, but the Spaniard is still very capable of competing on his day.
Sainz finished ahead of Leclerc in his first season with the Scuderia in 2021, managing four podiums in a very impressive first season in red, and he secured his maiden victory at the British Grand Prix this season.
However, the Spaniard trails the qualifying battle 10-3 after 13 rounds of the season, and has made one or two errors while trying to get to grips with an F1-75 car that has not always appeared to suit him.
The 27-year-old’s six podium finishes this campaign say a lot about the talent he clearly possesses though, and a little more consistency in the final part of the 2022 season could see him challenge Leclerc in the standings.
That talent has been there since long before he entered Formula 1, and he started out in the pinnacle of motorsport with Toro Rosso, the former guise of AlphaTauri.
The team was managed, as it has been since 2006, by Tost, so the Austrian has a good knowledge of the driver he worked with until late on in 2017.
Tost affirmed that there is nothing wrong with Sainz’s ability and, as long as the ducks are all lined up correctly, as Sebastian Vettel would say, he can challenge Leclerc.
However, it is the Monegasque who holds a slight advantage over his team-mate on raw pace.
“Carlos is talented and extremely hard-working, he is performing very well at Ferrari and can go toe-to-toe with Leclerc if everything fits,” said Tost in conversation with F1 Insider.
“But in terms of basic speed, Leclerc is two tenths faster.”
Sainz himself prefers to look at Leclerc as a friend rather than a competitor, because it is arguably their healthy friendship off the track that has helped the team become a competitive one on track.
He does, however, appreciate the immense ability that the 24-year-old has in his locker.
“Charles always does very good laps, from free practice to qualifying, and this year he also has a very good pace in the race as we have seen,” explained Sainz.
“He’s always an excellent reference in the team, he’s also a great guy with whom I get on well, he’s a guy I’ve really learned a lot from over the last few years and he’s also a guy I want to keep as a teammate for the future.
“We get along well, we have a good partnership, we spend a lot of time together, both in Maranello and on the track, and we generally have very similar opinions on a lot of things.
“Other than that, when it comes time to have fun, we can also have fun, play sports and everything.
“It’s not all serious, and the team also depends on our relationship, and I just hope we can continue like this because it makes things easier.”
Ferrari trail Red Bull by 97 points in the Constructors’ Standings heading into the summer break, having lost a number of wins to driver errors, reliability failures and strategic mistakes.
This has been a sign that, while the Scuderia are back to winning ways this season, they are perhaps not quite ready for a fully-fledged title challenge just yet.