‘Charles Leclerc was quite annoyed Carlos Sainz didn’t help him in Australia’

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc has his head down, Sergio Perez in the background. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has his head down, Sergio Perez in the background. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Peter Windsor, the Formula 1 pundit, has claimed tension is developing between Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz following the Australian Grand Prix.

After outpacing his team-mate in qualifying in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Leclerc was outqualified by Sainz for the first time in 2023 at Albert Park with the Ferraris fifth and seventh on the grid.

At the end of the session in Melbourne, Leclerc was heard sarcastically thanking Sainz over team radio having been denied a tow to help his performance on the straights.

“Big thanks to Carlos for the tow,” Leclerc said. “Got a bit of speed there, always nice.”

Leclerc went on to retire on the opening lap with Sainz dropping out of the points after incurring a five-second penalty for colliding with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin at the restart.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, former Williams and Ferrari team manager Windsor has been left bemused by Leclerc’s spiky reaction in Australia.

He said: “In Q3, Charles was quite annoyed that he didn’t get any sort of tow or help from Carlos Sainz.

“It would have been only on, I guess, the finishing straight. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Melbourne you can get any help at all.

“I thought it was odd that he made that public, that he was upset about that, because you’ve got to live in your own world and you’ve got to be very cocooned when you’re at Ferrari.

“You’ve got your guys and and you’ve got to work in a very apolitical way, so it was quite a political reaction I think he had to it all.

“To me, even if Charles felt that Carlos was in a position to help him, I think it’s quite naïve of him to think that Carlos would.

“Why would Carlos Sainz help Charles Leclerc any more than Charles would help Carlos really?

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“Maybe he would because he doesn’t really ever see Carlos as a true threat, but Carlos Sainz has just come off a very good Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“He’s done pretty well so far over the Australian Grand Prix weekend [and] above all he just wants to outqualify Charles Leclerc.

“To think that Carlos is then going to try and help Charles with the tow was, I think, a bit naïve.

“I’m surprised that Charles even allowed that thought to come into his head because it’s unlike him to think that way.

“I think, partly because of that, he didn’t qualify well and he had a terrible race.”

“We all know what happened in the race and that’s part of not qualifying well.”

With Leclerc retiring from two of the opening three races and Ferrari still awaiting a first podium finish of the season, Windsor feels this is a strange time for Leclerc to be picking fights.

He explained “I think that’s a really interesting dynamic of what’s going on at Ferrari right now.

“If I was managing Charles Leclerc, I’d be saying to Charles right now, ‘the best thing you can do is to have a great relationship with Carlos Sainz because you might need him as the season goes on’.

“‘You are quicker – don’t worry about that – but you might need him. The last thing you need is to draw any sort of rift between you two.

“‘And right now, Carlos Sainz is hurting badly because of the ridiculous penalty he was given at the final restart in Melbourne, so the best thing you can do is actually get on his bandwagon, sympathise with him and go along with how ludicrous that penalty was and just put your arm around him a bit’.

“That’s what I would say if I was managing Charles.

“I doubt that’s happening.

“I suspect the gap is going to be even wider as we get to Baku between the two, but I’m just saying that’s the way I would have handled it.

“I’m a guy that worked with quite a difficult driver at times, [1992 World Champion] Nigel Mansell, and there were several occasions when I had to say things like that and did say things like that to Nigel with his relationship with Keke [Rosberg] mainly. Not so much Nelson [Piquet] but certainly with Keke.

“I’m surprised that it’s got that way, particularly as the Ferrari isn’t yet a race-winning car and the time to have any sort of drama within the team would be if they were both potentially going to win the grand prix and in the running for the World Championship.

“But at this level where Ferrari are at at the moment, I find it really odd that Charles had such a bad weekend in Melbourne and partly it was due to that annoyance he had with Carlos.

“I’ve got massive respect for both of those drivers in different ways and I hope Charles gets it together now and somebody is there saying, ‘look, focus on your own weekend, let’s just make this happen now’.

“He’s always been good around Baku so let’s see what happens.”

Windsor had previously claimed that Leclerc is “getting quite emotional about the whole situation” at Ferrari, with the frustration of the team’s lack of competitiveness and being outqualified by Sainz contributing to his DNF in Australia.