Mattia Binotto praises Carlos Sainz after bizarre omission

Mattia Binotto has continued to maintain that Ferrari don't have a number one driver.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has backed up Carlos Sainz following a bizarre omission from the manufacturer’s chairman, John Elkann.

In what has been a troubling year for Ferrari, Elkann spoke to La Gazzetta Della Sport, where he hailed Charles Leclerc as the team’s lead driver whilst failing to even mention, let alone acknowledge Sainz.

The usually invisible chairman, who is virtually never seen in the Formula 1 paddock, also discussed the Maranello-based team’s championship chances going forward, with 2022, set to be another year without a title for the Italians to celebrate.

Ferrari have undoubtedly failed to make the most of their impressively fast F1-75, due to a catastrophic number of strategic errors and reliability problems.

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The Italians have slipped to 139 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship, with Leclerc 116 behind Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship.

Sainz is even further behind Verstappen, with the Spaniard currently fifth in the standings, providing some evidence as to why Elkann and former F1 World Champion Damon Hill hail Leclerc as the team’s leading driver.

Binotto disagrees with what the pair believe, with the Italian having maintained throughout the season that both drivers are equal, something he continues to insist.

“No, it doesn’t mean that,” said Binotto.

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“What our chairman said, if you look at the current season, Charles on average has been faster than Carlos and has most often been on pole position.

“But the ambition of the two drivers, the final ambition, is to win the championship and I think Carlos is a strong racer.

“He proved it last year, in the past seasons and is still proving this season that he’s a good racer.”

It is understandable why Sainz has been dubbed the team’s number two driver, given the fact he’s only achieved seven podiums this season, with one of them being a victory.

The Spaniard is currently on a woeful run of one podium in his last six races, whereas Leclerc has claimed three podiums from the last six.

The Monegasque driver has also won three times this year, but interestingly has claimed the same number of rostrums throughout the year.

Binotto praised Sainz for being a “good learner”, and once again emphasised the importance of giving the pair “equal chances”.

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“He [Sainz] is scoring a lot of points on Sunday, he’s a good learner and he’s fast as well,” added the Italian.

“So I think it’s fair, as a team, to give them equal chance, certainly at the start of the season and through the season.

“If necessity will be there, we may designate who’s got the most opportunity to win.”