Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2021

Sainz’s strong start no surprise to Ferrari after his debut season with Verstappen

2021 F1 season

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says Carlos Sainz Jnr’s strong first half-season with them came as no surprise given his form alongside past team mates.

Sainz’s debut 2015 season alongside Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso, and past two campaigns as team mate to Lando Norris at McLaren, were clear signs of his ability, said Binotto. At the summer break, Sainz leads team mate Charles Leclerc by three points in the championship.

Binotto said he was “not surprised” Sainz has begun his Ferrari career so well. “When we decided and contacted him to make him the offer, we made a lot of analysis and we knew that he was a strong driver.

“We knew that he was a strong racer, we knew that was very consistent in the race and he was fast as well. I think he has proved to be fast since he was in F1.

“We shouldn’t forget that his very first F1 season with Toro Rosso, his team mate was Max, and that very first year he was doing well. And if we look as well at the last year with Lando I think again, he was doing very well and we know how Lando is strong and I think that he is showing it as well in the current season. So we are not surprised by how strong he is or how fast is.”

Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Toro Rosso, Melbourne, 2015
Sainz and Verstappen made their F1 debuts together
While other drivers have struggled after moving teams this year – including Sainz’s McLaren successor Daniel Ricciardo – Ferrari’s latest hiring has bedded in quickly, said Binotto.

“I’m happy to see that he’s doing well because that’s showing that I think we made the right choice. I’m happy also to see the way that he is integrating with the team and the way that he’s behaving with Charles. I’m happy as well in terms of leadership, the type of leadership is showing, not only on the car, out of the cockpit when he’s back at Maranello. So overall I’m happy.”

However Binotto believes Sainz is yet to demonstrate his full potential with a completely trouble-free weekend.

“What I’m expecting from him in the second half [is] he has not yet been capable of putting together one entire weekend – there is always a mistake here or there: Quali, start or in the race.

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“So I’m expecting that he will continue his learning the team, continue his learning the car and soon, hopefully, he will put together an entire weekend. I think that’s important for him at first.”

Although Sainz is also pleased with how quickly he has adjusted to life at Ferrari, he admitted he still has room for improvement.

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, Imola, 2021
Binotto wants to see an error-free weekend from Sainz
“I am happy with the with the way that I am integrating the team and the first half of the season,” he said. “I’m very happy particularly with the speed that I’ve had with the car. Since race one I felt like I was on top of the car and I was able to push it to the limit and be on the pace straight away in pretty much every circuit that I’ve been to.

“It doesn’t feel like my strongest season in Formula 1, definitely. I feel like there’s a lot of points, a lot of missed opportunities here and there.”

Sainz agreed with Binotto’s analysis of his season so far. “I haven’t put a whole weekend together and this is something that I used to do very well,” he said. “For some reason, maybe it’s just being part of a new team, it just takes time to maximise weekends.”

His most recent race in Hungary was a clear example of how he needs to eliminate errors, Sainz admitted.

“I did a mistake in quali, I paid the price in the race, and there was one strange thing going on the pit stop that didn’t allow us to release. We missed a podium opportunity because of all that and all of a sudden the whole weekend doesn’t taste that good because I feel like we could have scored even better points.

“So this is a very good example of how the first 10, 11 races have felt like with, again, very good speed in qualifying, in Q1, in FP3, but for some reason something didn’t quite go to plan and we ended up where we ended up.”

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11 comments on “Sainz’s strong start no surprise to Ferrari after his debut season with Verstappen”

  1. When comparing Sainz to Verstappen in 2015, everybody always seems to forget that Sainz had 5 years of car racing experience then, when Verstappen only had 1 year of experience.

    It would be really interesting to see how they stack up against each other in the same car now!

    1. @ebogaard Well he’s only been faster than Leclerc in 3 of the 11 qualys, and with Verstappen it would surely be even worse and the gaps bigger.

      Binotto: “What I’m expecting from him in the second half [is] he has not yet been capable of putting together one entire weekend – there is always a mistake here or there: Quali, start or in the race.”

      Binotto is really trying to instill a culture of support within the team, but at least it’s combined with truths.

      And even Sainz is getting the message it seems, as his bragging is somewhat tempered.

      1. @balue
        Yes, qualy has been Sainz’s main weakness so far this season. He isn’t capable of dragging the maximum out of the car when it counts the most. That’s what Leclerc is so good at.
        But who says he would do worse against Verstappen?! Remember, he outqualified Max in their debut season and was on par with Lando Norris at McLaren.
        And let’s not forget who Carlos is up against at Ferrari: a driver that made Seb Vettel look like a total rookie for 1.5 seasons
        I think Carlos is doing a very good job, considering the limited testing opportunities and who his teammate is. He’s definitely doing better than Ricciardo or Perez, who are in a similar scenario.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          24th August 2021, 14:14

          @srga91 Yeah, Vettel looked like a rookie but I’m not sure his battle was with Leclerc. I think the differential showed that Ferrari were probably running 2 different teams last year. There were oddities in Leclerc’s performances. The car was slow then suddenly an opportunity for a podium came and the car was a championship contender all of a sudden for 15 laps.

      2. I don’t really think verstappen would demolish sainz any worse than leclerc is doing, I think leclerc is as fast as whoever you consider the current fastest driver, he’s only making a bit more mistakes but he’s still less experienced, verstappen used to as well in his first years.

  2. It shows how car performance masks driver performance. Norris and Sainz were roughly equal last year and because the McLaren was a bit slower, people thought both were good, midfield drivers. Now the McLaren is faster and Norris is getting some noteworthy results, suddenly both are ranked right near the top.

    It works the other way too. Perez got to drive the Pink Mercedes and doing so managed to land him a Red Bull seat and Bottas got to drive the 2014-2016 Williams when they were decent and that got him into Mercedes – both were viewed as really good drivers because of their performances but as we’ve seen, they aren’t quite at the level of the top guys.

    1. To be honest, sainz hasn’t been that level of impressive to me, I wouldn’t consider him a top driver currently like leclerc and the others.

  3. In an another timeline where Riccardo would have signed for Ferrari and maybe struggled as much as in Mclaren. Perhaps the newslines would have been something similar to Red Bull that Ferrari is build around one driver. In my mind it is better for Ricciardo to find his pace in a Mclaren than in a Ferrari. Imagine Ferrari having two seasons in a row where one of their drives finishes out of the top 10 in the standings. This is just ifs and buts but even if Ferrari haven’t been on top of their game in race pace, overall car performance or strategic at least they now have two very good drivers. Nothing away from Ricciardo but in my mind Sainz is closing that gap to get on “Ricciardo level”. Just behind Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Russell. Sainz may not have a win to his name but he is better than some may think (including myself.)
    Still next year can change the grid order so we only can wait and see how things pan out.

  4. Sainz is not the average at best driver that some suggests but not also the great driver some seems to make of him. Too any exaggerated views here as usual.

    1. We’ll see how this season pans out, leclerc is a great benchmark, it’s like going against hamilton, verstappen, norris or russell: it will become clear if the driver is just an overrated midfield driver or a true top driver.

      1. @esploratore1 How much more do you need? He’s been let go by almost all the teams on the grid, and comes from struggling to beat a rookie, to being trounced by a driver with only 3 years experience. Even his team principal here is quite harsh saying he’s always making mistakes.

        Binotto is really talking up Sainz, but that’s more than likely what he figures Sainz’s ego requires, not because it’s necessarily true. If it was about that, he would obviously be singing Leclerc’s praises but he doesn’t need to be stroked, so there’s not much of that.

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