Charles Leclerc’s honest admission after being upstaged by departing Carlos Sainz

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz embrace after Ferrari's one-two finish at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz embrace.

Charles Leclerc has rejected the notion that Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz’s latest victory at the Australian Grand Prix has increased the pressure on him to return to winning ways.

Almost five years since his maiden F1 triumph at the 2019 Belgian GP, Leclerc remains stuck on five career wins having failed to add to his tally since Austria 2022.

Charles Leclerc in Carlos Sainz’s shadow at Ferrari?

Sainz, by contrast, has claimed Ferrari’s last two victories and stands as the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race since the start of the 2023 season.

The Spaniard’s third career victory in Australia came less than two months after Sainz was informed that he will be released by Ferrari at the end of this season to make way for seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who will arrive at Maranello on a multi-year contract in 2025.

Speaking to media ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Leclerc admitted that he is frustrated by Sainz’s success, having been forced to settle for second in Melbourne.

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But the Monégasque denied that Sainz’s impending departure has upped the pressure on him to return to the top step of the podium.

He said: “I will lie if I say that I’m happy with that. Of course I’m not.

“But wins are important, points at the end of the season even more. However, I want to win and I want to come back to winning as soon as possible.

“Carlos has done an amazing job in the two opportunities we had to win and now it’s up to me to react and hopefully win the next one. That’s the target and I’m working flat out for that.

“At the end of the day, I think in Formula 1 people tend to forget very quickly and everything is based on the last race, but if I look at my last eight, nine races I think they’ve been at a very good level.

“However, in most of those races, it was not possible to win with the car.

“But it’s up to me to be there whenever there’s the opportunity that arises and the fact is that I haven’t been doing so well in Singapore and in the last race. I’ll keep pushing of course.

“However, the fact that Carlos won’t be at Ferrari next year doesn’t add pressure or anything. My goal is always to try and win.”

Following Sainz’s victory in Singapore last year, it emerged after the race that Leclerc had directly assisted his team-mate’s win by volunteering to start on soft tyres – despite knowing it would put him at a strategic disadvantage in the race.

The decision to start on softs allowed Leclerc to jump George Russell’s Mercedes off the line and protect Sainz in the first stint.

Leclerc ultimately finished a distant fourth, more than 21 seconds adrift of his race-winning team-mate.

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