Charles Leclerc believes Carlos Sainz has the talent to win races for Ferrari once they both have the right car to fight on track with.
Sainz, a new arrival from McLaren, and Leclerc are the youngest Formula 1 driver line-up in the Scuderia’s history and began life as a Ferrari duo with a double points finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
While the SF21 already looks to be an improvement on last year’s dreadful SF1000, race wins and regular podiums still look like an unrealistic target for Sainz and Leclerc in 2021.
However, once Ferrari do overcome their weaknesses, Leclerc has backed his new team-mate to be up there fighting with him for race wins.
“Carlos is a really strong driver and until now he has never had the right car to prove that,” Leclerc told Gazzetta dello Sport’s magazine Auto Week.
“I expect him to fight for the victories when we will have the right car.”
Leclerc said that Sainz is a driver that he did not know really well but, now they are at the same team, they are getting on great together.
“I didn’t know Carlos very well, because we’ve never had much time to spend together,” he said.
“I remember one day in Singapore, in the evening, he was watching the circuit from the pool on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sand skyscraper, and I was there as well, so we started talking.
“Now the relationship is becoming stronger. The things we have in common are the age and our interests, we often laugh together and we get along great.
“We joke about everything, like two normal guys. We don’t talk only about racing, but also about our lives, and about what happens to us every day. We enjoy it a lot.”
As for when Ferrari can start challenging for race wins again, both Leclerc and Sainz think those opportunities can happen as early as 2022.
“Why not? I think so,” Sainz said.
“We need more than a year to become a dominant team, but getting back to winning can happen even before, first of all because 2022 will be a weird year for everybody and we will start from scratch.
“When there was the last change in the regulations, back in 2007, Ferrari started with the fastest car. I believe in this team.”
Leclerc added: “I think it will be an opportunity for us, actually the opportunity, to get back to winning ways.”
Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla