Carlos Sainz defied speculation he will ditch Ferrari for a move to Audi’s new Formula 1 project, when his contract with the great Italian team is set for renewal at the end of next year. The Spaniard still dreams of winning the world title in Red.
Amid the rumblings of Fred Vasseur’s takeover as F1 boss at Maranello, changes have been constant as Mattia Binotto’s unexpected departure brought about the inevitable changing of the guard aka staff and loyalists to the previous chief.
Furthermore, it’s hard to hide that Ferrari appear intent on pushing 25-year-old Charles Leclerc as their ‘chosen one for the F1 title, should they be capable of building a winning car for their drivers. But even he has said that he would move if victories were not forthcoming in the near future.
Hence Sainz declaring his loyalty to the Ferrari cause, amid his former McLaren teammate Andreas Seidl taking over as the F1 boss, is newsworthy and contrary to the way the narrative seemed to be evolving.
Ahead of the weekend in Hungary, during an interview with Mundo Deportivo, journo Fabio Marchi asked how Sainz felt three seasons into his time at Maranello: “I honestly feel I’m at the ideal moment in my career to be a Ferrari driver.
“It’s an intense place to be because you have a lot of things to take care of. You have a lot of responsibilities, you’re racing for the Ferrari team, which I think says it all. You have to be 100% dedicated to F1 and the team. I’m in that moment between youth and maturity to take advantage of being at Ferrari. You have to really want it and I do.”
Sainz: Pressure at Ferrari can be exhausting but not for me giving 100%
The pressures of racing for Ferrari are legendary. The most supported team is also the most reported. Hence a microscope is trained on the Reds everywhere they set up their garage. How does Sainz cope with the demands?
He replied: “It could be exhausting, but not me. If you’re not 100%, as I am, or you are at the beginning or end of your career, you could burn out. I will not deny that. But I am 100% dedicated and so happy to be at Ferrari that the noise doesn’t exhaust me or affect me. I don’t allow it.”
Amid an increasingly volatile Silly Season aka ‘F1 drivers market’ the Audi rumours, and probably interest from Mercedes and even Red Bull, are not going away. As their team get their act together to deliver a race-winning car, or at least one second in the F1 pecking order, Sainz and Leclerc mark time, as their generational benchmark – Max Verstappen – smashes the sport’s records left, right and centre.
Stats show that 25-year-old Verstappen is hunting his 44th Grand Prix victory in Hungary this weekend while victory at Hungaraoring for Leclerc will put him on six F1 wins. A win for Sainz, on Sunday, would double his tally to two.
Not happy reading for the two drivers in Red. Which prompts the question: How is the state of his commitment to the cause?
Why move to noobies Audi if he has found happiness and purpose at legendary Ferrari?
“My priority, of course, is to continue at Ferrari,” declared Sainz. “I don’t see a better place in F1 right now than with a team like Ferrari, with the ambition to win again. I want to win another race as soon as possible and, if possible, fight for a World Championship.
“Since we both share a goal, if that team is Ferrari, well, I don’t see why not continue. I have said it many times: I always like to go into the last season of my contract knowing where I am going to race the following year. That will be my intention this year.”
As for what will make Sainz remain a Ferrari driver beyond 2024, the Spaniard said: “We need to agree. As always in life. You have to agree, shake hands and sign a contract, and if you don’t agree, you talk. From my part, I’ll always do everything possible to remain in a team like Ferrari.
“I’m not impatient. Yes, I have set a date, the winter of this year, to try to find out what the future holds for me. But I’ll think more about it at the end of the season. What it’s worth to me and what’s not to be here and what I can continue to offer Ferrari… I am simply very focused on the season.”
Sainz has never felt 100% comfortable in a Ferrari F1 car since he arrived at Maranello. Having to tweak his driving style, be more aggressive with the car which is probably built more to Leclerc’s style of driving. Of course, this kept the Spaniard on the back foot.
The song remains the same with the SF-23
While Sainz beat Leclerc in his first year as his teammate, the Monegasque regained the upper hand last season. This year they’re pretty much on par, one quicker in the race the other faster in quali. Both hampered by Ferrari’s lottery of race weekend antics.
The ‘song’ remains the same with the Ferrari SF-23, clearly not built for him, revealed by Sainz: “Honestly, the car is very similar to drive to last year. The driving style is exactly the same. I’ve simply made the effort to adapt to it and manage it a little better.
“Above all I made the effort to learn setup and see what things with this car can help me go faster. But above all, the biggest effort has been driving and getting to know the car at the same time. It is true that this year’s car, in relation to the others, is not as competitive. It’s very similar to last year’s or almost the same.”
As for the dream to be World Champion with the most supported and important team in F1 history, Sainz insisted: “Yes, the goal to be F1 champion with Ferrari is still intact. And I hope for a long time.”
Ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Sainz spoke of special motivation, which a sadness has instilled in him: “For my family, the past few days have been rather sad, because we lost my grandfather. I’d like to be able to dedicate a podium finish in Hungary to him. I’ll be racing with even more motivation to do well.”