Carlos Sainz has said he doubts that Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would be unbeatable in equal cars.
The pair fought hard for the 2021 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship, with Verstappen ultimately emerging victorious after a controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi.
With Mercedes and Red Bull being fairly evenly matched throughout the season, Hamilton and Verstappen pushed one another to new levels of performance – and many F1 pundits consider them to be far ahead of the rest of the grid.
However, Sainz – who just finished his maiden season with Ferrari – has said he believes they are beatable if they don’t have a car advantage over the rest of the field.
The Spaniard, who finished fifth in the 2021 F1 Drivers’ Standings, said: “With the same car I think they can be beatable, or at least on more equal terms than they were this year.”
Elaborating, Sainz estimated that Mercedes and Red Bull were faster than the other teams by around eight-tenths of a second per lap, and he believes a driver can only make up for a few tenths.
“Mercedes and Red Bull were faster by eight tenths of a second per lap and I want to think that between all the drivers there is no more than two or three tenths of a second difference.
“The issue is at least as old as the history of Formula 1 itself – ‘if there is a driver who drives a car eight tenths of a second faster, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you will never be able to beat him’.
“I hope F1 can be more balanced next year so we can have more fun and compete at a similar level,” Sainz added.
The Spaniard also discussed the intra-team battle at Ferrari, after he outscored Charles Leclerc by 5.5 points last campaign.
Sainz said he is under the impression that neither he nor Leclerc will start 2022 as the so-called “number one driver.”
“I don’t know if this changes my status or not because I’ve always believed at Ferrari we started on equal terms.
“In Formula 1, this battle is given importance because it’s the only one with the same car as you, so you can only compare yourself with your team-mate,” he added.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto recently confirmed that Sainz and Leclerc will initially have equal treatment in 2022, but this could change depending on how the season develops.
“Who will be first or second driver will be decided on track. Our priority is the team, if one can compete for an important position, the track will tell us,” the Italian said.
“And it will not depend solely on the talent or skills of the drivers, it can always be affected bad luck, with accidents or car technical issues. But there will not be a policy of the first and second driver.”