Carlos Sainz predicted to play ‘second fiddle’ and help reignite Charles Leclerc’s title bid

Jon Wilde
Charles Leclerc leads Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz. Spielberg, July 2022.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc leads Carlos Sainz at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2022.

Carlos Sainz should adopt a supporting role at Ferrari to help Charles Leclerc achieve a critical hat-trick of victories through to Monza.

That is the view of F1 Nation podcast host Tom Clarkson, who believes the time has come for the Scuderia to prioritise Leclerc if he is to have any chance of getting back into the Drivers’ title fight with Max Verstappen.

Leclerc has had six potential opportunities to win go astray since the Spanish Grand Prix as a result of three Ferrari strategy mistakes, two engine failures and a driving error of his own.

During that spell, the 34-point World Championship lead Leclerc held after the Australian Grand Prix has become an 80-point deficit to Verstappen, who has won eight of this season’s 13 races helped considerably by the blunders from the Italian giants.

Sainz, meanwhile, won the British Grand Prix on a day when Ferrari’s strategy ruined Leclerc’s hopes of doing so and he sits 22 points behind his Monegasque colleague.

With the Spaniard therefore facing an even more difficult job of catching Verstappen, broadcaster Clarkson feels he now ought to be instructed to put his team-mate’s interests before his own – with the aim being that by Ferrari’s home race on September 11, the title picture will have taken on a different complexion.

“If Charles Leclerc is to do anything about this World Championship fight with Max, he has to win these three races,” said Clarkson during the latest edition of F1 Nation.

“He has to leave Monza in three weeks’ time with three more wins under his belt, 75 points, hopefully three more for fastest lap as well.

“And if he doesn’t, and Max is just being Mr Consistent…that’s all he needs to be now, Max.

“In a way for Charles, it’s an easy objective – ‘I have to win these races’ – and be completely uncompromising in his approach. But he has to do that.

“So, three Charles Leclerc wins, and I think for that reason we might see Carlos Sainz playing second fiddle at Ferrari as well.

“If Carlos is in a position to win and/or can move over and help Charles, I think he will. Carlos is a team player.”

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the podium. Bahrain March 2022.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the podium after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir March 2022.

Has the time come for Ferrari to implement team orders?

Although they have resisted it up to now, surely Mattia Binotto and co will have decided during the summer break to give Leclerc every chance he needs – via some help from Sainz – to close the huge gap to Verstappen.

The problem is that until they prove otherwise, can Ferrari’s strategy department really be trusted to achieve that?

The British Grand Prix was a prime example. Deciding to split the strategies at a late Safety Car period, they kept Leclerc out in front to keep track position and brought in Sainz for fresh tyres.

It made the leader look like a sacrificial lamb as he was devoured by the three immediately behind him on the newer, softer rubber after the restart and although the team still won the race through Sainz, it did nothing for their chances of winning a first Drivers’ title since 2007.

At the race immediately before the summer break, the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies said: “There will be a point when we will need to focus more on a driver compared to the other one if the championship position is requiring.

“So it does not mean waiting for a mathematical difference, but it means being at the point of the season when you think it is the right thing to do.”

Arguably, and entirely of their own making, that point came a few races ago.

And even if they did not agree then, Ferrari must surely concur it has arrived now.