F1’s hottest property? Binned Carlos Sainz lands another punch on Charles Leclerc

Sam Cooper
Carlos Sainz on the podium

Carlos Sainz has finished on the podium every race he has competed in this year.

When Ferrari thought up their ideal plan for 2024, the driver they discarded becoming the second most in-form on the grid would not have been on it.

Carlos Sainz has been in inspired form so far in 2024, so much so that even his own exploding appendix could hardly stop him.

Another podium in Japan and another performance that demonstrated extreme confidence in his own abilities, the Ferrari man was the last of the front runners to pit for a third time and yet when he emerged much further down the order, there was never any real doubt that he would be rising up it in the very near future.

That was even evident to Charles Leclerc and his race engineer. In Leclerc’s defence, he drove an excellent race of his own, the only driver on an effective one-stopper to finish in the points, but there was little he could do to stop Sainz from passing.

And that has largely been the story of the season. Sainz leads the quali head-to-head 2-1, in races he is 3-0 up. Had Sainz not been forced to sit out in Saudi, he would likely be second in the standings and on course for his best ever season.

At the start of the season, I predicted the Ferrari battle to be the most exciting on the grid but since then, it has been decidedly one-sided. The question then is, what can Leclerc do to stop the rising tide? Sainz ended his first season ahead and is looking like he will do similar in his final year with the team.

Ferrari would never admit it but there will be some thought of ‘what have we done?’ given just how well Sainz is doing but also in comparison to the troubles Lewis Hamilton is having.

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In Suzuka, Hamilton often seems a dejected man and one at odds with the team. There was constant confusion as to how he was losing so much time and disagreements regarding strategy resulting in a P9 finish, his joint-worst of the year excluding his Aussie DNF.

For Sainz though, he has made himself the hottest property in Formula 1. His post-race calmness was Verstappen-esque in terms of being comfortable in success. Sainz is in a rich vein of form and had it not been for the Dutchman, he would no doubt be in the title equation.

As it is, the title remains in the hands of Verstappen but Sainz will know that anything other than that will be up for grabs.

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