Carlos Sainz aware of difficulty of beating Charles Leclerc in first season at Ferrari as both team-mates discuss battle, as well as need to work together to help team back towards the front in Formula 1
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 28/02/21 9:51am
Carlos Sainz has been backed to succeed at Ferrari but admits it will be a “bit complicated” to beat Charles Leclerc in his first year, with the new team-mates vowing to be “smart” and “careful” when battling each other in Formula 1 2021.
Speaking at the team launch at Maranello as Ferrari’s recovery plan was outlined, both Sainz, the new signing from McLaren, and Leclerc, the highly-rated Monegasque who beat Sebastian Vettel in back-to-back seasons, agreed to work together this year to rebuild F1’s struggling powerhouse.
But both also have eyes on an intra-team battle, with Sainz, who has been praised for his quick integration, particularly cautious.
“For me, this year will be a bit complicated to beat you,” the Spaniard told Leclerc. “Because I don’t know the team and the car, but I will do my best. If there is a year where we have to work together, I think it will be this year.”
He added: “There’s always a balance to find between wanting to be competitive with your reference as a team-mate but at the same time especially the moment we are going through as Ferrari, there’s one thing that’s of paramount importance and that’s the team.
“I think we are both going to push flat out to make sure we can help this team move forward, and I think we have started on the right foot, we are getting on well and have a good relationship.”
Ferrari are aiming to work their way back towards the front in 2021 after falling to sixth last season – their worst result in four decades.
“I think it’s a compromise that we need to find ourselves,” explained Leclerc about fighting Sainz. “I think it’s very clear in our mind that we need to push for the team, this is always the case anyway.
“But Carlos wants to beat me, I want to beat him too, and then once we are on track we will try and be careful whenever we fight each other and always trying to have a vision of what we can do better for the team.
“I think what’s most important is that we manage to do a separation of what’s happens on track and off track, and every time we are out of the car we need to work together to try and push the team forward for the development.
“I think it’s a fine line every team-mate needs to find. Carlos is very competitive, but as he has made clear, he is here for the development of the team – as I am – and we will have to play it smart on that one.”
Leclerc has beaten his team-mate in each of his three seasons in F1 while Sainz defeated Lando Norris in both his years at McLaren.
But team boss Mattia Binotto also made it clear that he is not interested in who is on top this year.
“Team comes first,” he said. “There’s not a single individual who counts more than the team. It’s something of which we are all aware.
“Something we have discussed altogether is that to be world champions, first we need to beat the other cars and the other drivers. Only by the time that eventually we are the fastest car, and we have the fastest drivers on track, we may fight between them. It’s really being focused in trying to progress as a team.”
How is Sainz settling in at Ferrari?
Since joining the grid in 2015, Sainz has changed teams three times – from Toro Rosso to Renault, Renault to McLaren and now McLaren to Ferrari. But he is aware that this is his biggest challenge, and says fans will have to be patient to see him hit top form.
“My intention is obviously to be 100 per cent ready for race one, but realistically speaking, and my experience changing teams over all the years that that is very difficult to achieve,” he stated.
“My 100 per cent level, which is what I consider I was showing at McLaren race in race out, when I’m going to achieve that is very difficult to tell.
“My intention is as soon as possible and if that’s from race one then better. But that depends on the feeling the car gives you straight away, and I’m going to need a bit of time to find that out, and a bit of time to experiment.”
Ferrari are also “not expecting him to be fully integrated, 100 per cent at the start of the season”.
“I have to say that Carlos is very well integrated, I think his feedback has been good and his speed on track is good, and he’s developing day after day,” said Binotto. “But it will take some more time.
“But each single day will be important and I believe he will be ready for the start of the season, if not 100 per cent, very close.
“Because in the end he is not a rookie, he is a professional driver, he’s got some F1 seasons on his back so I am pretty sure he will manage pretty well the situation and be ready.”