Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has said he thoroughly enjoyed having Carlos Sainz at the team last year after a strong season for both drivers.
Ferrari signed Sainz from McLaren to replace the outgoing Sebastian Vettel, who headed off to Aston Martin.
Leclerc out-qualified Sainz 13 times over the course of the season, but the Spaniard managed four podiums to the Monegasque’s one.
Reflecting on his first year with Sainz as his Ferrari team-mate, Leclerc says he saw the challenge from his older team-mate as a useful learning curve.
“We learned a lot. As always when you have a new team-mate you always learn, [such as] the new ways Carlos is approaching race weekends, the way he works, his talent, his raw speed also, the way he takes the corners,” Leclerc said.
Sainz came home fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, while Leclerc finished seventh.
The Monegasque said he is impressed by Sainz’s performances over the course of his debut season with the Scuderia, which he described as “amazing.”
“He had an amazing year, so he obviously pushed me very, very much to try and perform better at every race and it’s just been extremely interesting,” he said.
He went into the specifics of the 27-year-old’s talents and how they compared to his weaknesses in his debut season with Ferrari back in 2019.
“I think maybe one of the strong points of Carlos is the race management and tyre management, and that was probably my weakness in 2019,” he added.
Leclerc replaced Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari three years ago, after spending just a single season in Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo Sauber.
He believes he developed significantly in 2020 and 2021, and he attributed part of his improvements last season to Sainz.
“I progressed a lot as a driver in 2020 and again last year, and part of last year was thanks to Carlos.”
Sainz and Leclerc guided Ferrari to third in the Constructors’ Standings last year, beating McLaren in the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Such has been the quality of the Spaniard’s performance that Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has spoken about contract talks over the winter break.
Sainz’s current Ferrari deal runs until the end of this year, but he has said he can’t imagine himself driving for any other team in the medium-to-long-term.