Carlos Sainz will not be drawn on Mattia Binotto’s future at Ferrari, but believes reaching the F1 summit in such a short timeframe would have been unrealistic.
Ferrari have been widely criticised in 2022 for failing to build on a terrific start to the season that saw Charles Leclerc win two of the first three races, with team principal Binotto’s head reported to be on the chopping block.
Speculation has intensified to the point where it now appears only a matter of time until the 53-year-old engineer’s exit from his role is confirmed.
But while Sainz, the British Grand Prix winner, refused to comment on what may or may not happen to his boss, he suggested it would be unfair to expect Ferrari to have risen from a distant third place in the 2021 Constructors’ standings to the undisputed No 1 spot they held during the Michael Schumacher era.
As Red Bull got their act together after reliability issues early in 2022, the Scuderia shot themselves in the foot time after time with avoidable mistakes – and ended up having to fend off a late challenge from Mercedes for second place in a championship they had led by 39 points after three rounds.
Asked by Sky F1 what he wants to see happen and whether stability at the top is required, Sainz replied: “I won’t get into what I prefer. I don’t prefer, I just know from experience Rome wasn’t built in a day and you need to take into account where we are coming [from].
“Did you see the progress we’ve done as a team in these last two seasons? It’s huge, and the team is working well.
“We are very ultra-critical behind closed doors, probably towards the public we are protecting each individual of the team and we are having this famous no-blame culture where we want to obviously protect everyone and we are, I think, doing a great job at that.
“But it is true that we’ve done plenty of mistakes this year and that we want to be a better team, but it doesn’t come from one year to another and we need to keep improving.
“I think the second half of the season we’ve been a bit better at everything, we just didn’t develop [the car] enough.”
What can Carlos Sainz do individually to boost Ferrari?
From a personal perspective, the Spaniard knows he can give more – he had six retirements in 2022 and only two of those, in Azerbaijan and Austria, were due to his car breaking down.
The other four were down to accidents, either of his own making or with an outside influence.
Australia and Japan were entirely down to Sainz, whereas at Imola and Austin he could only be blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time as Daniel Ricciardo and George Russell respectively were more at fault.
But he freely admitted it took him a while to get fully comfortable with the all-new F1-75 car.
“I’m not entirely happy with my season,” said the 28-year-old. “I won’t lie, the first half was too tough for me, too tough compared to what I expected.
“I’ve never been lacking pace in a car. I’ve always been at the pace pretty much straight away with every car I’ve been driving and this was the first time in my career I was two or three tenths off the pace and I had to really put my head down and try to find where these two or three tenths were.
“Charles was driving extremely well in the first half and this exposed a bit more my limitations and I found them in the end.
“I got myself in the rhythm, got myself to a good level with this car which is now the baseline and the pace I can do next year from the beginning.”