Charles Leclerc is losing the Ferrari team leader role to Carlos Sainz one radio message after another, that’s according to RTL’s Allard Kalff.
15 races into this season Ferrari became the team to end Red Bull’s winning streak with Sainz racing from pole position to the victory by 0.8s ahead of Lando Norris at the Singapore Grand Prix.
It was a thrilling end to the race, one in which Sainz controlled the pace from start to finish, even keeping Norris within DRS range in the closing laps to give the McLaren driver DRS to use to defend against the Mercedes teammates.
‘Carlos Sainz might be more of a team leader than Charles Leclerc’
As for Leclerc, he had to settle for fourth place on a day in which the driver was left to rue his support role to his teammate.
It was one he tried to escape during a late-race Virtual Safety Car, Leclerc urging Ferrari to bring him in for fresh tyres only to be told to stay out. And so stay out is what he did in keeping with other races in which he has listened to Ferrari instead of taking matters into his own hands.
Mercedes did pit their drivers with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton storming past Leclerc on their fresher tyres to fight for the final podium position.
Kalff reckons Leclerc’s refusal to push his own agenda, in sharp contrast to Sainz’s radio messages telling Ferrari what he wants to do even if it goes against the team’s thinking, is handing the team leader role to Sainz.
“I think Sainz might be more of a team leader than Charles Leclerc. The way he [Sainz] talks on the radio, the way he takes matters into his own hands,” Kalff told Motorsport.com.
“Remembering Hungary, then Leclerc was sent on track with the hard tyre and it didn’t work. When they said to Sainz ‘You come in for a hard tyre’, he said: ‘Yes, but it doesn’t work for Leclerc so I don’t want to use it either. Just do something else’.
“Then you are a team leader.
“I think the fact that he is winning now is fantastic and that he is doing it this way is also fantastic.”
The Dutch pundit was full of praise for Sainz’s late-race management as he kept Norris and the Mercedes teammates behind him despite being under massive pressure.
“Overtaking is not easy here [in Singapore],” he said. “The speed that Norris had compared to the Ferrari was actually not enough to overtake him. Then you have to make sure that you position your car in such a way that you cannot be overtaken.
“And if there is DRS, then you have to as a leader, make sure you have enough electric energy to counter that. He did that perfectly.”
He also applauded Ferrari’s pit wall, saying they got the strategy spot on from the very start as they split the drivers’ tyre strategies with Sainz starting on the mediums to Leclerc’s softs.
“It’s so much fun. If you just look at it, you can actually look at it very clinically. And then they just did very well clinically at Ferrari,” he said.
“Last year I criticised them after the tactical blunders they made, but they have now said from the start ‘This is how we are going to do it, Carlos from pole and Charles from P3. He [Leclerc] has to start on softs to get in front of Russell, and then we can check it’. And they did that perfectly.”