How ‘dumped’ Carlos Sainz has created ‘tense situation’ at Ferrari

Michelle Foster
Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc battled hard in the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint.

After the Ferrari rivalry ignited in China, kicked off by Carlos Sainz, Cesare Fiorio says the team should’ve realised they’d lose “control” of the driver after axing him.

Sainz was informed even before the first race of this championship that his contract would not be renewed, the Spaniard dropped to make room for seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

‘How do you carry on and work well with a driver you just dumped?’

That’s meant the opening races have been an audition for Sainz, and he’s used them well, bagging three podiums in his first three race starts including the victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

But while the Spaniard had the better of Charles Leclerc in the opening rounds, the Monégasque driver outscored him in China but it wasn’t without a lot of niggle.

Racing for fourth place in the Sprint on Saturday, Sainz physically used Leclerc’s car to help him make the apex of a corner with the five-time Grand Prix winner complaining that Sainz races him “harder” than he does other drivers.

He later spoke of his team-mate going “over the line”.

A day later it was Leclerc who had his elbows out as he pushed Sainz wide at the start to ensure the Spaniard couldn’t attack him for position.

In both instances, it could be easily argued that their antics cost Ferrari the opportunity to finish higher up the order.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Ferrari rivalry: Fred Vasseur faces biggest test yet over brewing driver clash

Martin Brundle grid walk: Classic moments and marvellous mishaps

“I don’t know their contracts but a loss of control by Sainz should have been taken into account already at the beginning of the season, and Vasseur can’t do anything about it,” Fiorio, who had to manage Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell in 1990, told Corriere dello Sport.

He, however, believes Ferrari created the current “tense” situation by dropping Sainz so early in the year.

“I was so surprised by the fact that the Sainz-Hamilton exchange emerged even before the start of the season,” he added.

“How do you carry on and work well with a driver you just dumped?

“The choice created a tense situation, also because the programs seemed to be based around the figure of Leclerc and instead it was Sainz who beat the Red Bulls twice.”

Sainz is the only non-Red Bull driver to have won a race since mid-2022, P1 at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix before winning in Australia last month.

Ferrari are second in the Constructors’ Championship on 151 points, 44 behind Red Bull, with Leclerc third in the Drivers’ standings where he is seven points ahead of Sainz.

Read next: ‘One of two places in Audi is now occupied’, but it’s not Carlos Sainz – report