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sainz ferrari

Sainz: I don’t have to be afraid of anyone

carlos sainz ferrari not charles leclerc

Carlos Sainz believes he is as good as Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc – three of Formula 1’s top new-gen drivers – but the Spaniard is not sure why people doubt him.

What do the four drivers have in common? They’ve been teammates in recent years.

Verstappen, who Sainz partnered at Toro Rosso, has turned into a mega-star and is Red Bull’s lead driver for the foreseeable future. The Dutchmen was the chosen one, the Spaniard not and was released

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Norris has been the standout youngster of this season. F1 knew he was good but not this good! No one expected the 21-year-old destroy veteran Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren as he has done. The Englishman was Sainz’s teammate at McLaren.

And now, Sainz is living his dream at Ferrari alongside Leclerc in the sister car. The latter is on a long term deal with the team, while Sainz has this season and 2022 to convince Mattia Binotto (if he is still around) to keep him and not oust him to make way for Mick Schumacher as promised.

Thus step one for Sainz is to beat Leclerc, which he told Auto Motor und Sport he can do “The goal for every driver is to be the best in the field, not just beating your teammate.

“[Ferrari] was a new beginning for me with many question marks. I knew I was going to be up against one of the fastest drivers in the field, if not the fastest, in a car that Charles knew well and on a team that he was well integrated with. I was wondering how to fit in there.

“But after half a season I can say that I am happy with how I cope with the challenges. The speed was there from the start but I still have to work on getting everything right for a whole weekend on a regular basis. That consistency gets you the points.

“I was always able to adapt well, ever since my youth. It was always a challenge for me to be quick and at home as quickly as possible with a new car or in another racing category. It’s part of my DNA. This experience has helped me too.

“I’ve changed teams in Formula 1 three times now, and I know how big this task is. That’s why I didn’t underestimate it. I had my lows when moving from Toro Rosso to Renault and Renault to McLaren. It can take a few races to get to grips with a new car and get the most out of it.

“I’ve talked about it during my previous team changes but nobody really believed me. Everyone said that you have to be able to do that as a Formula 1 driver, you always change teams but people only really realized it now because four or five drivers switched teams and weren’t exactly as fast as their teammates.

“Now everyone has understood that it is not that easy. Especially when you drive against teammates who know the team and the car well,” explained Sainz, clearly referring to the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez who also swapped teams this year and found the going tougher than expected.

Team boss Binotto declared recently that Sainz and Leclerc are the best driver pairing on the grid, despite their lack of winning experience, driving for a team that has tended to attract F1 World Champions in the past.

Not since 2007 have the Reds not had an F1 world champ in one of their cars; when Michael Schumacher replacement Kimi Raikkonen was teamed up with Felipe Massa, the Finn winning that year’s world championship – the last drivers’ title for the Maranello outfit.

After Kimi came Fernando Alonso whose era at Maranello was followed by Sebastian Vettel’s six-year adventure in Red. No titles were forthcoming during those eras.

Fast forward to 2021, asked if Binotto’s “best driver paring” claims are valid, Sainz replied: “We are very close and push each other to better lap times from the first practice session. I know how strong Charles is which has raised my own level because I want to beat Charles.

“I still don’t feel like I’m driving as consistently as in 2019 and 2020. There are still a few points that I want and need to improve but if things go wrong for me, Charles is there and, in the opposite case, me. That’s what makes us so strong as a team.

“It’s important to enjoy your job. When I enjoy it, my performance is better. Why should I mess with my teammates? That doesn’t do me any good. It works better when you can laugh about things together and joke about good and bad qualifying rounds.

“If we both work in the same direction, the atmosphere in the team is better and we make faster progress. Charles is a good guy. We have the same interests and the same goals. That’s why you can have good conversations with him and do sports or play chess together. Not only is he quick, but he also shows a lot of respect for his teammates.”

One thing that Norris, Leclerc and Verstappen have in common is their love for sim racing, the trio often online and Max, in particular, a front-runner on iRacing, the premier virtual racing platform. But Sainz is less involved in the booming virtual racing scene.

He explained: “I’m not a sim racer because I’ve been spending a lot of time in the team’s simulator. I prefer to spend my time working with the car that I’ll be driving next weekend or next year. I’ve been driving the 2022 car in the simulator since January to help the team develop it.

“I’ve competed in virtual races, especially during the lockdown, and wasn’t that bad at it but during one racing season, I sit in the simulator so much that I want to do something different outside of my work life.

“The simulators for computer games are nowhere near as complex or as realistic as those in the Formula 1 factories. That’s why I prefer to use my free time to relax or meet friends.”

In closing, Sainz admits that he does not understand why he is not rated up there with his former teammates and it clearly irks him: “If you sign a Ferrari deal, you must have done something right in your career. And I always felt valued by all teams, from Toro Rosso to Renault to McLaren, even after I left them.

“When the public thinks I’m in the shadows, I wonder why. Regardless of who I’ve driven up to now, whether Max, Nico [Hulkenberg], Lando or Charles, I never had the feeling that I was slower than them or that I can’t do something they can.

“I’ve beaten everyone and always pushed them to the limit. I see this as an accolade. Even by my own assessment Max, Lando and Charles are among the top drivers in the field and enjoy the challenge of racing against them, they make me a better driver.

“That also gave me the confidence that I could take on anyone when I joined Ferrari. If I integrate myself properly into the team and set up the car correctly, I don’t have to be afraid of anyone,” insisted Sainz.