Carlos Sainz has a challenge on his hands to hit the ground running when he starts the 2021 season with Ferrari alongside Charles Leclerc.
Sainz has been confirmed by the Scuderia for 2021 as the replacement for Sebastian Vettel, and it’s safe to say that Sainz won’t get an easy ride from his team-mate.
Leclerc, a graduate of the Ferrari Driver Academy, made the step up in 2019 after a single season with Sauber and instantly proved a match for Vettel, finishing ahead of the four-time World Champion in the Drivers’ standings on his first attempt.
2020 was a far more frustrating season for Ferrari who finished P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, their worst showing since 1980, but Leclerc’s performances were a major positive with the Monegasque driver scoring two podium finishes.
So, already Sainz was facing a challenge, but the fact that pre-season testing has been cut to just three days for 2021 means the Spaniard will go into the season with very limited Ferrari experience.
So, for the opening rounds at least, Sainz expects a tough time from Leclerc.
“He’s a great talent. I think he’s driving at an incredible level right now,” said Sainz, as quoted by RaceFans.net.
“He’s performing, for me, one of the best on the grid right now. So it will be tough to match him, especially at the beginning, without any winter testing and anything.”
Sainz became one of the most popular personalities on the Formula 1 grid during his time with McLaren thanks to his bromance with then team-mate Lando Norris.
But while Sainz gets along well with Leclerc, he is expecting a more “professional” relationship between them both.
“I think we will get along well. I already have some contact and I do get on with Charles already, we’ve been talking already the last few months a bit,” he said.
“The relationship with him, I will try and keep it as professional as possible. And then if we obviously get on well outside the track, I’m happy with that.”