Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has told Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz he must remain calm after two consecutive non-finishes.
Sainz was nonplussed after his second-placed finish in Bahrain to open the season, describing his weekend as “tricky” after he was comfortably beaten in qualifying and the race by Leclerc, before finishing third in Saudi Arabia.
Regardless of a perceived pace deficit to Leclerc, Sainz’s season got off to a more than respectable start, but it took a turn for the worse in the last two grand prix.
He suffered horrible misfortune in qualifying and at the start of the race in Australia, before making an unforced error and spinning out of the race.
A crash in qualifying at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix saw him start the sprint race 10th, but he recovered to fourth as Leclerc narrowly missed out on the win to Max Verstappen
There was reason for optimism for the Scuderia as the race began in Imola under wet conditions but, seconds after the start, the 27-year-old was tagged by Daniel Ricciardo, putting him into the gravel and out of the race.
Not all of that affliction has been Sainz’s fault but Domenicali, who led the Ferrari team from 2008 to 2014, has advised Sainz to keep a level head to avoid succumbing to more woes.
“Carlos is certainly a very talented driver. Unfortunately, Ricciardo touched him on a slippery track,” he told Rai2.
“But these are episodes that if you don’t know how to manage them well, you can get into psychological difficulties that are difficult to deal with.
“He has renewed his contract for another two years, so the guarantees are there, he just has to be calm and he will certainly achieve excellent results.”
Verstappen went on to win Sunday’s grand prix and reinstate himself and his team in the title picture having suffered two non-finishes as a result of reliability issues in the early part of the season.
The tenacity of the Dutchman is not something that surprises Domenicali having watched him claim the 2021 title on the very last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from Sir Lewis Hamilton, and he observes that the 24-year-old is gaining a better perspective of when to be aggressive, and when to take a slightly more cautious approach.
“Verstappen is a champion. He proved it in his determination until the very last corner of last year,” explained the Italian.
“He is maturing as a driver and with his attitude to racing, he now knows when to manage the car and when to attack.
“The beauty of Formula 1 in recent years is certainly the presence of these talented drivers.”
Leclerc himself made a costly error – his first of the season – while going for P2 and the fastest lap of the race, but span late on, eventually turning a fulfilling P3 into a desolating P6.
Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger asserts that errors like the one Leclerc made will come back to bite a driver in the latter parts of the season.
“You can’t afford to make mistakes like that,” he affirmed.
“He had all the time in the world – and then this serious mistake. The points he lost can hurt a lot in the end.”
The Austrian notes that Leclerc is bringing out an even more fierce competitor in Verstappen, but warns the Monegasque that he cannot afford to ship points as easily as he did in Imola.
“You can see that Verstappen is more aggressive in their duels too. Charles is a good driver, but now he has to deliver,” he said.
A discussion can very easily be had as to whom has the best driver line-up currently in Formula 1, and Berger insists that, now Leclerc and Sainz have a competitive car capable of winning races, we will see if a case can be made for the Ferrari pair.
“Journalists often ask me whether the Ferrari drivers are good enough, and I always say ‘give them a good car and we’ll see,’” he explained.
“Now we will see how good the two of them really are.”
Ferrari lead Red Bull by 11 points in the Constructors’ Championship after the Milton Keynes side’s first one-two finish since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend.