Ferrari have been told to back Charles Leclerc over Carlos Sainz to give themselves the best possible chance of defeating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The Monegasque has out-qualified Sainz nine times this season, and has finished ahead in seven of the eleven rounds of 2022, cementing his place as the Scuderia’s number one.
Strategic decisions in Monaco and Silverstone, as well as reliability issues in Spain and Baku, have cost Leclerc the win in at least four races of the 2022 season so far, despite minor upgrades to the rear wing helping the Italian side into better race pace than Red Bull of late.
However, after seven races without a win, the 24-year-old crossed the line P1 in Austria last weekend, closing the gap to Max Verstappen to 38 points in the Drivers’ Standings.
After Sainz’s engine blowout in Spielberg, Leclerc is now 36 points ahead of his Spanish team-mate, and Ferrari have been urged not to make a meal out of challenging for the championship.
“Ferrari, don’t mess up this world title,” say La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Now the hierarchies will be clearer.”
Given the prevalent gap between the team-mates, Corriere della Sera indicate that Leclerc is the driver the Maranello-based team should now backing for the crown in 2022.
“If there was ever any doubt, the numbers now show that Leclerc is the man to bet on for the world championship,” writes Daniel Sparisci.
“The comeback remains difficult, but with the performances seen at the Red Bull Ring we must believe in it even if the danger of reliability is omnipresent.”
Team principal Mattia Binotto is adamant that his team will be able to find a fix for the reliability gremlins that have been plaguing them of late.
“These are issues that are worrying for the next races, but not in the long term, I am convinced that we can solve them as a team,” he said in conversation with Corriere dello Sport.
However, those changes cannot be immediately implemented, so the team will have to keep the mileage under control.
“We have a very good performing engine, and that offers hope for the future when we get the reliability under control but it takes time to intervene – new components have to be designed and produced,” explained Binotto
“We can’t do that in a few weeks, so in the short term we have to limit the kilometres.”
Ferrari are now 56 points behind Red Bull in the constructors’ battle after 11 rounds of the championship following Max Verstappen’s P2 in Austria.
The other Red Bull of Sergio Perez, along with Sainz, retired from the race having been hit on the opening lap of the race by Mercedes’ George Russell.