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Formula 1 | Ferrari in the driver’s clamp: will Sainz dethrone Leclerc?

Before the start of the 2022 Formula 1 season, there is a lot of guesswork in the premier class. What will the balance of power be like? Are Mercedes and Red Bull driving away from the field again? Or will the duel possibly turn into a three or four fight for the title? Quite a few believe that Scuderia Ferrari is capable of the big surprise this year. The omens are good. At the same time, there are also some warning signs.

In the shadow of Mercedes and Red Bull, Ferrari developed into the big winners of the season last year. Of all the teams, the Reds made the biggest leap forward compared to 2020. From sixth place, the constructors’ championship went up to third place. Instead of 17 top ten finishes, the team ended up in the points 37 times – a development that few expected.

Thanks to the modified power unit, among other things, the Scuderia 2021 played again in the concert of the big ones. In addition to the improved engine, the reds also successfully worked on some adjustment screws in other areas. Instead of bankruptcies, bad luck and breakdowns, the engineers, mechanics and team management finally got things moving. That was completely different, especially in the last two Vettel years. There was chaos on the pit wall and in the garage on a regular basis.

Sainz as Ferrari’s greatest stroke of luck

Perhaps the greatest stroke of luck proved to be the signing of Carlos Sainz. In his first season, the Spaniard was on par with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari’s “man for the future”. Like so many newcomers (Vettel, Ricciardo, Pérez), the 27-year-old also had problems adjusting to his new team in the first few weeks. It was all the more remarkable how quickly Sainz reached the level of Leclerc.

In the end, the Spaniard not only had more points (164.5:159), but also more podium finishes (4:1). In general, the newcomer only failed to score points twice in 22 races. This impressive consistency was crucial on the way to third place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Has Sainz disenchanted Leclerc?

Sainz’ numbers also amazed the competition. Just a few days ago, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko found that the Spaniard had “disenchanted” Leclerc. Since Sainz comes from the Red Bull stable, Marko is of course not unbiased here. Not a few agree with the tenor of his statement. Even Mattia Binotto described Sainz as a “benchmark” for Leclerc last year – and that in the middle of the season, when Monegasque was still ahead in a direct duel.

“Ferrari must now prepare to manage two drivers with the same ambitions, the same goals and the same chances of winning,” warned former Formula 1 driver Ivan Capelli before a new challenge. For him, too, Sainz is “on the same level” as Leclerc, who “has not always successfully fulfilled his role as the intended team leader,” explained the Italian.

Capelli is therefore also one of those who believe that Leclerc will be under particularly great pressure in 2022. “And having that pressure on your shoulders makes a big difference,” says the former Formula 1 driver.

In the executive floor, they got the feeling last year that Leclerc’s achievements were perceived more critically. Mattia Binotto therefore demonstratively jumped to the side of his protégé and put it into perspective: “We should not forget that there were some races like in Monaco and Budapest in which he was very unlucky. As a result, he is missing at least 40 points.” Overall, he is “very satisfied” with the performance of his number one, whose status is at least scratched.

Massa also warns Ferrari

For the Scuderia, the question arises in 2022 whether two equally strong and equally ambitious drivers in their own ranks are a luxury situation or whether they will become a luxury problem after all. It is clear that the expectations in Maranello for the 2022 season have increased significantly. Any kind of jamming could endanger the high targets.

The last few years have shown how quickly everything can collapse in the Reds. The Brazilian Felipe Massa was often there up close. He says: “It takes a lot of hard work and a cool head to get good results.” Above all, keeping a cool head is important, emphasized the Brazilian. “And that,” said Massa, “is difficult for Ferrari.”

Christian Schenzel

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