Ralf Schumacher, Alex Wurz and Nico Rosberg have all pointed to Charles Leclerc’s imperious pace as the cause of Carlos Sainz’s mistakes at Ferrari in 2022.
Having spun into to the gravel and out of the race in Australia following an unfortunate qualifying, Sainz arrived at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a new contract that keeps him at the Scuderia until at least the end of 2024.
However, in qualifying, he found himself pushing despite setting a lap good enough to make it into Q3, and he crashed out of Q2 and began the sprint race on Saturday in 10th.
A marvellous recovery from the Spaniard saw him finish fourth with Leclerc in second, but the Monegasque has won two of the first three races of the year, leading Schumacher to believe that Sainz is making costly errors in his pursuit of his team-mate’s pace.
“I think he wants to show with all his might that he is as fast as Leclerc [and] it gnaws away at him,” he said.
Former Benetton and Williams Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz believes that Leclerc has now established himself as the team leader, but advises against counting out Sainz.
“Leclerc is basically the number 1 in the team, but you shouldn’t underestimate Sainz,” he told Kronen Zeitung.
“He has to catch up quickly now, because if he doesn’t manage to do that in the next five or six races, the team will focus entirely on Leclerc.”
2016 champion Nico Rosberg opines that the pressure of having Leclerc as his team-mate has extracted the uncharacteristic errors from the 27-year-old.
“It probably couldn’t be more difficult for Carlos mentally. And now we can all see the pressure that is on him,” he explained.
“He’s making more and more mistakes, which is actually very strange for him. He has to find a way to stop that.”
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto agrees that his driver needs to acclimatise to racing at the front and dealing with the pressure that comes with that, but he does not question Sainz’s ability to adapt.
“I think it’s a matter of managing the pressure,” he affirmed.
“It’s maybe the first time in his career that he’s got a car which is fast enough to compete for the best positions, and he simply needs to get used to that.
“But he will do it very quickly because I know how smart and how capable he is.”
Sainz sits second in the Drivers’ Standings after his P4 on Saturday, 40 points adrift of championship leader Leclerc.