Carlos Sainz has emerged as one of the standout drivers of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship season, his integration into Ferrari has been beyond expectations and he is now set on making the sport’s most famous team great again.
With Charles Leclerc holding court over Maranello, having made Sebastian Vettel redundant, Ferrari turned to Sainz as the alternative. The Spaniard with 123 Grand Prix starts to his name is well journeyed in F1, the Scuderia his fourth team.
And, it would be fair to say, Sainz has matured and continues to do so indicating well in advance that he is not at Ferrari to play second fiddle to anyone. This was palpably evident after Monaco qualifying when he was clearly aggrieved that his teammate binned it, the man from Madrid felt he had a good crack at a top spot start.
But Leclerc’s error denied Sainz (and a few others) a shot at pole on the day, instead, he had to settle for third, which became second when the other Ferrari suffered a failure during the warm-upon. And that’s where the #55 car stayed until the race ended on Sunday, behind race winner Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
But the fact that he was brimming with anger at the missed opportunity is the kind of spirit that sets good drivers from great drivers. Sainz has the talent and hunger to be the latter.
Fully committed to Ferrari for the long-term, Sainz explained why he has committed his future to the Reds during an in-depth interview with Gazzetta Motori: “There aren’t many teams that have the possibility and ability to react as we do.
“Of course it is difficult but already this year we are proving to be faster, now we need some time, we want to build a winning team, maybe not next year but thereafter.
“Let’s see what happens with the new regulations, we are working to be competitive already in 2022 but we don’t know the level of the opponents.”
The reality for Ferrari is that time is never on their side as Italy demands their national racing team to be at the forefront of F1 all the time. The mood among Tifosi is bleak, wins have been far too scarce of late.
The pressure and attention do not escape Sainz: “There are great emotions, and first of all the giant responsibility, you know you are driving not only for any team but for millions of fans in Italy and around the world.
“Then it’s an honour, every child had a red car among their toys and being a Ferrari driver means that the time has come to be that guy, driving that car of that colour.”
Sainz has moved to Maranello to be as close to the factory as possible during the week, he is a regular visitor, winning the hearts and minds of everyone at the factory in the process.
Sainz explained: “When I’m at Maranello it’s to work, maybe when I finish I happen to spend a day, but on the weekend I go back to Madrid.
“A typical day is in the simulator from 9.00 am to 17.00 pm, meetings with engineers, dinner at 19.30 which changes the Spanish schedule quite a lot, then to bed early and the next day more meetings. At the same time, I’m on a good diet to get energy for each day.”
As for a timeline to achieve his goals with the team, Sainz said: “We need to have a little patience, 2021 is a year of rebuilding the team and to start 2022 with confidence. We are building a good team for years to come, drivers and everyone at Maranello are fully energised to succeed.”
While the Reds have unyielding faith in Leclerc for the future, it would be fair to say they have hit the jackpot with Sainz as he too is showing his true colours, with a touch of leadership qualities as a bonus.
This week Sainz and Leclerc were at Paul Ricard for a couple of days testing 2022 18-inch Pirelli wet tyres. On his day in the cockpit, the Spaniard completed 167 laps, 92 using full wets and 75 on the intermediates.
That’s it for @ScuderiaFerrari driver @Carlossainz55 and the latest 2022 #Fit4F1 18-inch wet tyre test at @PaulRicardTrack. A total of 167 laps completed today: 75 on intermediates and 92 on full wets. @fia @F1 pic.twitter.com/SzN0ofUPtU
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) May 26, 2021