Sainz spoke of the whole grid’s regard for Leclerc’s qualifying pace in particular, with the two-time race winner using his ability to drag his often uncompetitive 2020 machine to heights it probably should not have scaled on Saturdays.
“However, that doesn’t mean to say Sainz doesn’t plan on getting the better of his new team-mate at the Scuderia.
He admits that he won’t be able to truly compare himself to Leclerc until they compete head-to-head on track, but Sainz believes his experience against other team-mates will stand him in good stead for his intra-team battle for the Maranello outfit.
“I know I’ve been up against guys like Max, Nico [Hulkenberg], Lando – who is super-fast, for me one of the fastest guys I’ve come across – and I know what I’m capable of against them,” Sainz told The Race.
“But my respect for Charles is enormous, especially after what he managed to do with this Ferrari last year.
“That was impressive to all of us, not just you guys in the media, but for the drivers too. We knew he was doing something special on Saturday.
“I know I’m up against one of the fastest, if not the fastest, guys in qualifying so it motivates me. I’m curious to see how I stack up against him, how can I also improve myself, what can I learn from him, to see why he is that good with the Ferrari at maximising the lap.
“Until I’m up against him I will not know why he’s that good. So I’m keen to learn.”
— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) March 29, 2021
Sainz also revealed that he felt a move to Ferrari was a natural path for his career moving forward.
While you can guarantee that almost every Formula 1 driver would like to pull on the famous red in their career, the former McLaren man says he was able to build an affinity with Ferrari’s staff – even before joining the team.
“I have always pictured myself as a Ferrari driver,” he added. “Since I joined Toro Rosso and I saw how well I was getting on with Italian guys there and those three years were very nice for me there and very successful.
“Since then, I don’t know why, even without knowing anyone in Ferrari, every time I saw a Ferrari mechanic I would have a conversation with them.
“I just felt close. I don’t know why. It’s a strange feeling. It’s always been like that.”
“It’s Italy’s national team. It’s a huge culture and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m Spanish and we have that kind of affinity with other Latin nationalities. With the Italians I’m getting on very well and the Tifosi are being super nice to me.”