Carlos Sainz feels he could have won 2022 title in a 2021-style F1 car

Jamie Woodhouse
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. Le Castellet July 2022.

Carlos Sainz walks through the paddock arriving at the circuit. Le Castellet July 2022.

If those pesky ground-effect cars had not come to be, then Carlos Sainz would have fancied himself as an F1 2022 title contender.

Formula 1’s return to ground effect aerodynamics was actually scheduled to take place as of the 2021 season, but the COVID pandemic meant that the introduction of these sweeping changes was pushed back to 2022.

Sainz’s Ferrari team were not a title contender in 2021, but once the new generation of cars hit the track the following year, it was Ferrari who started out with an F1-75 that was the pick of the bunch initially.

Their title bids ultimately fizzled out, but while Ferrari were leading the way in those early stages, it was Charles Leclerc flying the flag in the Drivers’ Championship, while Sainz struggled to find those final few tenths needed to join the conversation.

Leclerc would finish the season with three wins, while Sainz scored just the one, taking the chequered flag at the British GP for his first career victory.

Sainz spoke regularly last season about the challenge he faced to get comfortable with the F1-75 and reach his optimum level of performance, and indeed, he believes that the old-style challengers would have been better suited to him for launching a 2022 title bid.

“Obviously last year I had difficulties with a car that required a special driving style,” said Sainz, as per Motorsport-Magazin.com. “Although I think it was too late, I still adapted.

“I’m trying to start better this year and adapt to the conditions of the car. There are things I want to get better at. For example, consistency, that used to be my strength, I have somewhat given up the consistency that made me so strong at McLaren and in my first year at Ferrari.

“I feel more confident and better prepared after last year. I know now what it’s like to fight at the front and what I have to do to do it.

“To be honest, I wasn’t ready with last year’s car. With the style of the 2021 car, I could have won the World Championship. Last year I was not in a good position, it happens.

“There will always be cars that are made for you, you jump in them and without pushing you get an excellent lap time. Then there are cars that you push and try everything, but you realise that that certain something is missing. That’s what I was missing last year.”

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Carlos Sainz needs to be in the title hunt in F1 2023

If Ferrari have a challenger in the SF-23 which is, as expected, capable of sustaining a title push this time, then F1 2023 is a crucial year for Sainz where he will need to be right there alongside Leclerc in pursuit of that first World Championship.

Last season, Sainz seemed to regularly be batting away calls for Ferrari to recognise Leclerc as the No.1 driver with Sainz in the supporting role, and while the performance levels were making such a move understandable, team boss at the time Mattia Binotto was never ready to pull the trigger.

Now, Ferrari have the straight-talking Fred Vasseur in charge, and while Leclerc and Sainz will start with equal status, should either of them fall behind, then Vasseur has said he will not shy away from the decision which was too troubling for Binotto to make.

Sainz needs to prove on the track then that he has been strengthened by his 2022 experiences and can operate at the very pinnacle of Formula 1, because when a driver falls into that No.2 category, especially at Ferrari, it can be hard to ever escape it.