Former Ferrari F1 driver Gerhard Berger does not believe that Carlos Sainz will fulfil his aspirations of becoming the Scuderia’s lead driver, but recognises that this will not stop him from trying.
Sainz has been out-qualified and out-raced at every event so far in 2022 by team-mate Charles Leclerc and, perhaps as a result of the danger of slipping into a support role, the Spaniard has made critical errors in each of the last two race weekends in Australia and Imola.
He was also wiped out of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix by Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap and, after Leclerc’s spin sent him down to P6, the Spaniard finds himself 48 points behind the Monegasque in the Drivers’ Standings.
But his raw pace has rarely been far adrift of the 24-year-old’s, so his results and a couple of errors have not reflected what has otherwise been a positive year for the former McLaren driver, and his new contract until the end of 2024 epitomised the faith that the Scuderia have in him.
Team principal Mattia Binotto asserted this by indicating that Ferrari have “the best driver pairing” on the grid, but Berger takes the cynical perspective that he would have said that regardless.
“That is what you say in this situation, no matter what you really think,” he said.
“Since the second driver has been signed for a longer period, you have to underline that, of course.”
The 10-time race winner observes that Sergio Perez has embraced his support role at Red Bull, serving Max Verstappen’s needs and helping the team in the Constructors’ Standings, but he does not believe Sainz has accepted his place at the Scuderia yet, which he indicates could cause dissension.
“Yes, Perez has really improved a lot, also as a team player,” he added.
“Unlike Sainz, he knows his situation well. Sainz still has ambitions to fight to be number 1 at Ferrari. It won’t work for him, but he can’t help it.
“Ferrari could have a problem with that, as Sainz is not ready to be number 2 just yet.”
The new technical regulations this year have helped Ferrari take enormous strides forward having endured an abysmal 2020 and a 2021 season that was an improvement, but still a significant distance off the pace of Mercedes and Red Bull.
Ground effect aerodynamics were brought back to improve the racing spectacle, but many of the teams are now facing a battle to control the weight of the cars which, this year, Berger affirms is extortionate at its 798kg limit.
“The cars are too heavy – they’re like small trucks. 800 kilograms is too much,” he affirmed.
“In our time, the cars weighed 550kg. The extra weight is explained by this hybrid formula.”
Despite Berger’s comments about Perez, the Mexican has recently reiterated that he is not at Red Bull to just act as second driver to Verstappen, while Sainz is adamant that the new contract has “strengthened” him in his quest to achieve wins and podiums with Ferrari.