Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

2021 F1 driver rankings #5: Carlos Sainz Jnr

2021 F1 driver rankings

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In his first year as a Ferrari driver, Carlos Sainz Jnr couldn’t match his team mate’s incredible feats over a single flying lap in the SF21.

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Beat team mate in qualifying 9/22
Beat team mate in race 6/20
Races finished 22/22
Laps spent ahead of team mate 369/1143
Qualifying margin +0.02s
Points 164.5

But he often struck the balance between speed and aggression more successfully than Charles Leclerc and regularly brought his car home in the points. That, plus some misfortune for his team mate, allowed Sainz to nip ahead in the standings by the end of the season.

In our rankings, Sainz is top among the many drivers who had new cars to adapt to in 2021. This is probably thanks in no small part to his considerable experience of getting used to new teams: Ferrari was his fourth different home in the space of five seasons. Nonetheless it took Sainz a few races to show what he could do, and he made a few mistakes over the opening rounds, particularly when the conditions were less than ideal.

That was the case at Imola where he went off on his intermediates, though he was able to salvage fifth – three places higher he managed on his debut, where he collided with Lance Stroll. An early switch to medium rubber in Portugal did not pay off, and Sainz dropped out of the points by the end of the race. And although his qualifying crash in Baku was triggered by Yuki Tsunoda going off ahead of him, Sainz’s slip-up at turn eight in the race was all him, and left his Ferrari eighth at the finish.

However by then Sainz had already delivered his first podium for the red team, on a weekend where his team mate had taken himself out of contention. Sainz was dismayed at losing his chance to complete his final flying lap in Q3 at Monaco, where he felt pole position was within reach, when Leclerc smashed his car into a wall at the Swimming Pool. On race day, car problems took Leclerc out of contention, Valtteri Bottas got held up in the pits, and Sainz salvaged an excellent second place.

He had the beating of Leclerc on a dire day for the team in France, where both drivers fell backwards with tyre trouble. Sainz came in a disappointed 11th, but his second non-score of the year was also his last: Sixth next time out in Austria was his first of 15 consecutive points finishes. No driver finished in the top 10 on Sunday more often than he did.

It took a few more rounds for Sainz to become a regular in Q3, but that didn’t stop him reaching fifth in the second Austrian round (after passing Daniel Ricciardo) or recovering to an excellent sixth at Silverstone after being knocked sideways by George Russell in the sprint qualifying race. It didn’t look like he was on course for another podium in Hungary when he crashed in Q2, but following a first-lap shunt (which eliminated his team mate) Sainz wisely extended his first stint to jump Tsunoda and Nicholas Latifi, putting him on course for third place.

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Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Monaco, 2021
Monaco was the first of four podium finishes for Sainz
As the season wore on, Sainz increasingly shadowed Leclerc. He followed his team mate at Zandvoort – but succumbed to a bold pass by Fernando Alonso – and out-qualified him at Monza, before Leclerc muscled his way ahead at the start of sprint qualifying.

In Sochi, where Leclerc was taken out of contention by a power unit change penalty, Sainz was in great form, planting his car on the front row in a wet qualifying session before passing former team mate Lando Norris to lead. When the rain fell, Sainz timed his switch to intermediates carefully and duly bagged his third podium of the season. At Istanbul it was his turn to start from the back, but he put on a terrific show as he passed car after car for eighth place on a treacherously wet track.

The two Ferraris disputed the same piece of track more than once over the remaining races, and at times the team intervened to dictate their running order, as they did in Mexico. The pair also scrapped hard in Saudi Arabia, though in both races Leclerc emerged ahead. Sainz had the upper hand in Qatar, though – his passage to Q3 on mediums underlining the improvements he had made with his one-lap pace.

Sainz capped his season with a great drive in Abu Dhabi where he out-qualified Leclerc and was only narrowly beaten by Norris, whom he passed soon after the start before briefly holding off Verstappen during the pit stop sequence. The contentious final restart denied him an opportunity to attack the leading pair, but nonetheless Sainz delivered his fourth podium of the year.

Leclerc may have been the quicker driver more often during the year, but Sainz’s career-best fifth in the drivers’ standings was fully deserved.

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What’s your verdict on Carlos Sainz Jnr’s 2021 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments. Add your views on the other drivers in the comments.

2021 F1 season review

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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71 comments on “2021 F1 driver rankings #5: Carlos Sainz Jnr”

  1. Great first season going up against an established driver in a new team too. He’s massively improved his reputation over the last 3 years and definitely in the top 5 drivers on the current grid now. He could have been 4th or 5th in the list but either position is fair for me and I’ve had probably given Leclerc the nod on balance over the year.

  2. Going into the season, I expected Sainz to struggle massively with a difficult Ferrari, up against a very strong teammate in Charles Leclerc who the team would clearly be building around. But as it happened, Sainz fared best of the drivers and ran Leclerc very closely, actually beating him in the championship. You can say that he was impressive because it was a new team and Leclerc was the number one driver, and yet he outscored his teammate, but as these things are impossible to quantify I would rank them purely based on performances in the races. And, contrary to the final points standings, Leclerc definitely had the edge over Sainz. The number of points I’ve added is a bit arbitrary – it’s just the difference in score out of ten – but a number is needed to allow a comparison.

    Bahrain – Sainz was strong with a new team, but Leclerc clearly outqualified and outraced him so takes an early lead of two points.

    Imola – They may have finished nose-to-tail, but Sainz made a few mistakes and was a lot further behind Leclerc before the red flag, without which Leclerc would have finished a clear second. So Leclerc stretches out another two points and leads by four.

    Portimao – Sainz outqualified Leclerc, but struggled in the race and dropped out of the points, while Leclerc, admittedly on the better hard tyre, finished sixth. He gains another point to lead by five.

    Spain – Leclerc puts in a pretty perfect weekend to dominate the midfield, beat Perez, and finish fourth, while Sainz is average. Leclerc pulls out three more points and leads by eight.

    Monaco – An incredible qualifying lap puts Leclerc on pole, but he crashes on the second lap to secure it. Now this could be a big points swing for many because Leclerc’s crash ultimately caused him to DNS from pole position, but I see it as a qualifying crash, and the team’s mistake not to replace the gearbox, so he loses fewer points than if he had crashed out in the race. Sainz puts in a strong drive to second, so closes the gap by two points to six.

    Baku – Leclerc took another sensational pole, and finished fourth with a less strong race. Sainz, meanwhile, lost a lot of time when he locked up and went down the escape road, so Leclerc gains three points to lead by nine.

    France – both have a disastrous race as the Ferrari wears out its tyres too much, but Leclerc’s struggles far exceed that of Sainz, so he loses two points and the gap is now seven.

    Styria – Leclerc makes a mistake on the first lap as he damages his front wing against Gasly, but recovers brilliantly to seventh. Sainz has a more consistent race to sixth. Sainz reduces the gap by one point to six.

    Austria – despite one outstanding pass by Leclerc on Perez, Sainz generally has the legs on him all weekend, albeit by a small margin, so closes in again by a single point.

    Britain – Leclerc almost wins the Grand Prix in what was the best drive in years (later beaten by Hamilton in Brazil), as despite losing the lead at the end, he held off a much faster Hamilton for almost the entire race and beat Bottas on merit. However, Sainz is also impressive with good speed but gets stuck behind Ricciardo and finishes sixth, so Leclerc only extends by two points and leads by seven.

    Hungary – a big points swing in favour of Carlos Sainz, but he was lucky here. A qualifying crash was negated when the first corner chaos elevated him right up to the front end, but when he took third after the pitstops, he was unable to close fully on Ocon and Vettel and was slower than Alonso behind. He inherits a podium from Vettel’s disqualification. Leclerc is taken out in the first corner, but still gains a point on Sainz to lead by eight.

    Belgium – Leclerc narrowly beats Sainz in qualifying, but no race is held. I rated them equally here, so the lead remains at eight.

    Zandvoort – Sainz crashes in practice three, but is still close to Leclerc in qualifying. In the race, Leclerc gradually pulls away from Sainz and eventually beats him by a large margin, with Sainz dropping behind Alonso at the end. Leclerc pulls out two more points to ten.

    Italy – the Ferrari drivers were quite evenly matched, but Leclerc was that little bit faster all weekend and gains another point over Sainz to eleven.

    Russia – an extremely strong weekend from both drivers. Sainz qualifies second, takes the lead at the start, but drops back after an early pitstop. Later recovers to third with the chaotic wet end to the end. Leclerc’s drive was one of the most overlooked of the season, as he started at the back with Verstappen, but fought through impressively, and pitted late. He was closing on Verstappen at the end and would have beaten him and Sainz if he hadn’t stayed out in the wet and dropped out of the points. I rated them equally again, so it’s eleven points in favour of Leclerc.

    Turkey – again, both were extremely strong for different reasons. Leclerc keeps in touch with Mercedes and Red Bull, and even leads for a bit as Ferrari briefly attempt a no-stop strategy. He finishes a strong fourth. Sainz starts from the back after engine penalties, but nonetheless fights through the pack to eighth, and it could have been higher. Again, they rate equally and Sainz is eleven behind.

    USA – similarly to Spain, Leclerc dominates the midfield, beats Bottas and finishes comfortably ahead of Sainz, who gets stuck in battle with the two McLarens. Leclerc pulls away by two points and holds a lead of thirteen.

    Mexico – Sainz was let past Leclerc into fifth, and tried to close down Gasly, but gave the place back when he couldn’t do it. I gave Sainz one extra point as I think he would have passed Leclerc anyway, so the gap is now twelve.

    Brazil – Sainz is ahead in both qualifying and the sprint, but Leclerc gets ahead of him in the race and beats him. I rated them equally.

    Qatar – Leclerc has a shocker in qualifying as he goes out in Q2, but this is later put down to a cracked chassis. Sainz is far stronger as he makes it to Q3 on mediums. Leclerc is stronger in the race and closes up to the back of his teammate as they finish nose-to-tail in seventh and eighth. I gave Sainz the nod by one points courtesy of qualifying, and it’s now eleven points between them.

    Saudi Arabia – Sainz hits the wall again in qualifying, while Leclerc takes a very strong fourth. Leclerc is then unlucky with the red flag, and Sainz lucky, bringing them together. Sainz leads for most of the race, but Leclerc gets him at the end. I gave Leclerc two extra points this time, and he leads by thirteen going into the final race.

    Abu Dhabi – Sainz is better than Leclerc all weekend, as the latter makes a scruffy mistake behind Verstappen and makes an extra pitstop under VSC that drops him down the order, while Sainz takes a podium at the end. The final race position exaggerates the difference between the Ferrari drivers. Sainz rates two points higher and finishes eleven behind.

    Now I think this provides sufficient evidence that Leclerc should be ahead of Sainz, as contrary to the final points table he was generally the better driver. I accept that Sainz had the challenge of moving to a new team where Leclerc was the established driver, but I don’t think this is worth eleven points. I have seen many rankings that rate Sainz above Leclerc, and in fact he rated fourth in the fans’ ranking to Leclerc’s ninth. But I put this down to many fans just looking at the points table, as well as recency bias as Sainz was stronger at the end of the season. I would rate Leclerc fourth, Gasly fifth, and Sainz sixth or seventh as he was very close with Alonso. I originally had Alonso ahead, but on reflection would swap them and put Sainz sixth. But there is my customary 1000-word teammate head-to-head, which I think is sufficient evidence to place Leclerc above Sainz.

  3. The top five finishers in Imola are likely going to be top five in the Racefans rankings.

    1. That’s very true, and norris and leclerc were both excellent at imola, they only lost out to hamilton cause leclerc ended up outside drs range of norris, which made it easy for hamilton to pass him and possible to pass norris too.

      1. @esploratore1 Leclerc was actually really impressive in the wetter conditions, he was an running a convincing 3rd (which became 2nd after Hamilton’s spin) but the red flag wiped out his 40 second advantage over Norris, and on the flying restart he was a sitting duck as Ferrari were at that time still down on power quite a bit versus McLaren.

  4. I guess lec will be number 4. Personally I would have switched those places. Giving Sainz the benefit because he did not knew the team or the engine characteristics.
    But both are a matched pair and it shows lec is not the boy wonder some see in him.

    1. What you say about Lec is the same thing Marko said.

    2. Or Sainz is much better than people think

    3. Ricciardo outscored verstappen in 2017, apart from reliability because he was a safer pair of hands, but to win a title you need to be very fast too, which verstappen and leclerc were always superior at compared to ricciardo and sainz.

      1. Kvyat outscored Ricciardo in 2015, to kind of prove that point aswell. Then Ricciardo outscored Kvyat in their 4 races of 2016 and then outscored Verstappen in the remaining 17 of 2016. Going back further in 2014 Ricciardo outscored Vettel who had spent the last 5 years outscoring Webber and taking 4 titles.

        All that indicated that Red Bull were not getting the results they could have done in the mid 2010s if they had with better reliability, luck and drivers performing to the peak of their abilities.

        By the way Kvyat is an interesting driver to compare to Sainz. In their season together in GP3 the less experienced Kvyat dominated Sainz while teammates at Arden and leap frogged him into the Toro Rosso seat while Sainz had to wait another year. No doubt that has something to do with why Horner wanted Kvyat for Red Bull but never fancied Sainz. However I think looking back Kvyat beat a weak field while Sainz had an awful year, as the following year he beat future F1 drivers Gasly, Mehri, Sirotkin and Stevens in FR3.5.

        However Sainz did a very solid job this year. It will be interesting to see how he gets on with Leclerc if the are battling for wins and podiums not just points paying positions.

      2. @esploratore1 but Leclerc seems to be stucked into that phase when Max was likely to crash every other weekend. Max, at the end of 2021, also returned to borderline / definite dangerous driving. Half the times I agreed with the way Max did it (Saudi, Abu Dhabi first laps) and others there was no way to defend it (Brazil).
        But returning to Leclerc, I see he keeps going for the gap that doesn’t exist many times. If he wants to beat his teammate and other title contenders, he needs to polish that as well.

        1. @omarr-pepper This revisionist history on Leclerc is killing me. Apart from Monaco and Styria I’m struggling to see where else he had any incidents, so this narrative of him being looking like he’s gonna crash every weekend seems crap. The Jeddah incident with Perez was definitely not his fault.

          1. Well, he crashed with Perez in Saudi and caused his retirement. But I see you won’t blame him on that

          2. @omarr-pepper I mean even Perez said it wasn’t Leclerc’s fault but I guess you’re the ultimate authority on things.

            It’s still as many mistakes as Hamilton then. Would you say Hamilton is crash-prone?

        2. Yes, he still has to reduce his amount of mistakes, but when you consider verstappen’s early 2018, leclerc’s been pretty much in f1 for a similar time as verstappen was back then, so I’m sure he’ll get better in this sense soon, and it could also be a matter of risking too much when not having a good enough car, see how verstappen made less mistakes when he got a title contending car this year, cause points are more important then.

    4. @esploratore1
      erikje is on mission to troll anyone that can challenge Max Verstappen. On the other hand, Leclerc is used to rattle Verstappen in wheel to wheel battles since their karting days. He is just parroting a recent Helmut Marko’s statement about Leclerc being overhyped. Saying that Sainz has been a much for Leclerc while he was lagging behind him pace wise in qualy and races says it all.

      As you said, Max got outscored by Ricciardo in 2017 and before that in 2016 and in the first part of 2018 before Ricciardo was no longer taking part of technical meetings with the engineers and the upgrades were only brought on Max’s car after it was clear that he is quitting the team. Though it was clear that Max was the real deal because he was mighty quick and capable to make the difference with the car. Ingredients necessary to fight for the WDC.

      Sainz for me is a consistent, versatile and technical driver à la Button. When the car is there he can deliver. Leclerc is the type of drivers that can make the difference regardless of the car. He needs to improve his consistency but I think that will naturally come if Ferrari manages to be a front running team again.

      1. Why would I do such a thing.
        Leclerc and Sainz are both fine drivers and if ferrari I able to get their act together it could be a nice fight.
        But facts are lec is making a lot of mistakes. So does Sainz. But the important difference is Sainz makes his mistakes during free practice and leclerc during the races.

        1. Sainz is good at staying out of trouble but he is not maximizing the car’s potential as demonstrated by Leclerc. If he can keep it clean and be on Leclerc’s pace then he may be able to emulate Alonso’s 2012 championship fight. Leclerc is no exception to past or present champions who makes mistakes pushing their cars. Add to that the fact that since He joined Ferrari in 2019, the team never produced a perfect handling car. This year’s car for example have both front and rear problems ; the front tyres goes off quickly and the rear is instable too.

      2. @tifoso1989 not to defend erikje, but actually I also think Leclerc is too hyped. Maybe as hyped as Russell. Let’s see how Charles works this season.
        PD: Good to see now we have something to disagree about again ;P

        1. He may be overhyped but there is already a lot what he has done.
          He won two junior titles in a row (GP3, F2) and defended from Hamilton at Monza
          He got pole at Monaco, won at Spa.
          But he is still very crashy just like Verstappen. Russell may be a bit more mature on the crashing side but I would rate Leclerc as fast as Verstappen but from these three Russell seem to be the one who keeps it on the road most often.

          1. @qeki but when there is a chance to go all out he usually makes mistakes too. Russell has lost lots of positions at the start, crashed under SC IIRC, and destroyed his and Bottas’ race (and inadvertedly saved Hamilton) in Imola. So I need to see how GR deals with this season’s pressure.

          2. Let’s not forget what leclerc did at sauber, he really showed he was the real deal back then already, like verstappen at toro rosso and other great drivers on bad cars in the past.

        2. @omarr-pepper
          That’s a very good sign for a potential championship campaign for Ferrari next year :)

        3. Actually i am a bit dissapointed in Charles compaired with Sainz i would rate Sainz higher (THIS YEAR in performance) so i would like see Charles and Sainz reversed.

  5. Sainz knows how to stay out of trouble. This is underrated because you just allow the others to get into trouble and then get easy places. Gotta watch out for Leclerc and Sainz if Ferrari are competing at the front this year.

  6. Sainz behind Leclerc? Would love the reasoning behind that one!

  7. Completed every race? Sheesh, that is some stat in itself and says a lot about Carlos as a driver.

  8. I was not so impressed with either Ferrari driver this season. They seem to not get rid of their clumsy mistakes, i.e. off track excursions. This might not matter when you’re not in the championship fight but is clearly something both need to address if they ever want to be in that fight. I expected more of this pair and therefore would have ranked them lower on the list. Let’s hope for their sake the car was unbearable to drive causing these frequent off track moments.

    1. I think that Ferrari just had an incredibly nervous rear. Most if not all off track excursions I can remember had to do with them loosing the rear. And seeing the amount of mistakes they made in previous years, I think it’s unfair to blame them for it too much

      1. Sorry, I accidentally flagged your comment. (Can’t imagine people are happy with the way that functionality works on this website)

      2. I suspect and hope you are right

      3. I agree. They are lucky to have finished 3rd. Their success is down to Sainz performing well, Ricciardo not, and Lando electing not to pit for rain tires

        1. I don’t know about lucky to finish 3rd when we outscored McLaren more than they outscored us.

    2. Agreed, both Ferrari drivers have room to improve. Sainz isn’t yet getting the most out of the car pace-wise, as evidenced by Leclerc often being just a tad quicker, but Leclerc isn’t bringing home the results the car is capable of either as shown by Sainz (too) often beating him to the line.

      Still, they’re probably the best pairing of all the midfield teams.

  9. About right I think. I thought Leclerc was slightly better overall, but conversely found Sainz more impressive, given that he was stepping into a new team. But as these rankings are purely performance-based, this is probably the correct placing.

  10. Carlos Sainz has managed to master the art of very quietly being a bloody good Grand Prix driver. I swear there is a moment in every single Grand Prix when I look at the leaderboard and say to myself “Sainz is having a blinder here and he’s not been mentioned in commentary once”. He had a very, very solid season in 2021 and I can see him going from strength to strength next season.

    1. Yeah, it really is interesting to see how he seems to just pop up there, in contention for a solid finish in the last third of every race @geemac! Not flashy, but always there.

    2. I followed the season on DAZN (Spanish), so not hearing about Sainz from the commentary team doesn’t happen. That said I agree that he consistently flys a little below the radar putting in solid results.

    3. Yep, Gasly too I find.

  11. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    24th January 2022, 13:27

    I think this raking is correct. Both have been pretty good, but Leclerc to me noticeably isn’t at the level he was a year or two ago, or at least not consistently. I think Leclerc is capable of being one of the fastest on the grid. I would argue with those that say that over 1 lap, he sometimes can put in laps that are better than any other driver currently. But he doesn’t do this consistently and has made a lot more mistakes this year. Interestingly if you look back when he was at Alfa Romeo, he made a lot less mistakes than he does now. Sianz has adapted very well to the team compared to almost all other drivers that were in a new team this season. But he made a few more costly mistakes than Leclerc and also had good look that masked a couple of his biggest mistakes in Imola and Baku. I do get comments complaining about how many negative things I say about Sainz, but agreeing with him being 5th isn’t unreasonable, and I rated him 3rd in 2019. I just don’t agree with those who rank him higher than Leclerc as it is likely heavily influenced by the fact that over the last stage of the season, he was just slightly better. He was only ahead in the standings after the final race. If you look at the first few races instead and base your ranking on that, then Leclerc was far better, but this isn’t how rankings should be done.

    They were both pretty good, but think Norris was better than both, then Hamilton and Verstappen on another level.

    1. Absolutely and who is the one you could count on fighting for wins when they were in order? Leclerc, and expect it to be the same for a title if ferrari ever makes a title contending car again. Sainz is consistent, but doesn’t have the natural speed it takes for a title.

    2. @thegianthogweed
      I disagree on your assessment about Leclerc. I wouldn’t say his level has dropped at all. If anything, he’s better than before, especially in qualifying. Has he made too many mistakes this season? Yes, definitely. However, there is a particular reason for that, which shouldn’t be ignored.
      Charles always wants to drag the best possible result out of the car, even if his car isn’t really capable of delivering that result. He binned it at Monaco, because he wasn’t satisfied with a possible P2 or P3 (he was down on his previous time and took more risk into the final sector). Similarly in Sochi and Istanbul. He could’ve delivered a decent result for the team, but that wasn’t good enough for him. The possible podium at Sochi and the win at Istanbul were just too tempting for Leclerc to not at least try it.
      He also made it very clear during his interviews at the end of the season, that he couldn’t care less if he finishes P5, 6 or 7 in the championship, because that’s not important to him at all. He is driven by ambition and everything less than a podium, win or the title counts as a disappointment for him.

      I’d say this is the biggest difference between him and Carlos. Carlos has learnt to get the most out of the car for the TEAM and not himself, probably because he spent most of his F1 career in midfield teams. Carlos also listens to the team a lot, too much in my opinion. Sometimes he seems afraid of making the wrong call and lets the team make the decision for him. Charles isn’t like that. He isn’t afraid to make the call on his own, even if the team thinks it’s unwise.

      1. I think that’s probably a fair comment on both Leclerc and Sainz @srga91, interesting way to say it.

        I think that in a championship fight, consistency is very important just as it is in a solid front-midfield car (but clearly, not if you are consistently too slow to get into the positions you’d need as a driver), so in a way Sainz drove the Ferrari as it arguably deserved for much of the year, but Leclerc showed that the car had more potential than that and showed it could do more if they got everything perfect, which might well be the thing Ferrari as a team needs to motivate them. Will be interesting indeed to see how the coming season goes.

        1. Thanks :)
          I agree, consistency is very important in a championship fight. That’s why it will be important for Leclerc to tune his aggression down a bit, to not step on his own feet, if the car should be quick enough to fight for the championship.
          You can’t win the championship at the first corner on the first lap, but you could very much lose it already. The championship is a marathon, not a sprint.

      2. This is spot on I think about the difference between the 2.

  12. Arguably his best season but worst racefans rank of his career. 5th is too high up for him, results could not have been better but he was slow, lacklustre and prone to mistake. Unbelievably fortunate to survive so many mistakes. Leclerc making mistakes in q and in the races saved carlos’ skin. This season could have gone very wrong for sainz jr.

    1. Please. Luck can have a part in one, two races over a season. When a driver is “best of the rest” in a season where he switched teams, and 26 points shy of one of the Red Bulls, it’s quite obvious that he’s neither slow nor prone to mistake. I wouldn’t understand if you argued Leclerc was better after saying Sainz’s results were due to Leclerc’s mistakes in qualifying and in the races.

    2. @peartree How is this is worst racefans rank of his career?

      1. @mashiat he has been #2, he is always above 5th.
        @warheart leclerc was 70% of laps ahead. binotto stated halfway into the season, leclerc was 40 points off where he could had been. Both crashed but like in baku, sainz jr crashes and loses nothing.
        Having sainz jr this close to leclerc automatically lowers both ferrari drivers in my opinion.

        1. @peartree His RaceFans ranking by each year was:
          2015 – 12th
          2016 – 6th
          2017 – 10th
          2018 – 13th
          2019 – 3rd
          2020 – 4th
          2021 – 5th

          So 5th is not at all his worst finish, only his worst in the past 3 seasons.

    3. After bashing Sainz all year, it’s nice to hear that you are now a big fan.

      1. @ferrox-glideh love him, especially when he ruined Lando’s race in Interlagos and somehow made it Lando’s fault and Lando himself who had nowhere to go, didn’t fault him. That is how much I love him.

  13. So janith, where are you? Sainz better than norris, huh?

    1. Results speak for themselves. McLaren is slower than Ferrari is the gut feeling of people. Everything is based on how a driver performs. The Ferrari Drivers finished neck and neck with each other. While a certain Daniel Ricciardo had a shocker. So because Norris had a bigger gap to Ricciardo he suddenly is better than Sainz?
      Sainz and Norris were equal in the last 2 years in quali but Sainz had better race pace and he still does better in races.
      Won’t be surprised if Sainz someday win a World Drivers Championship but he still won’t be ranked above Norris because of British bias and these clueless things like Norris had a bigger gap to his teammate and inferior car blah blah blah.

      1. I wrote this head-to-head review of the McLaren drivers last year (when Sainz was ranked fourth and Norris tenth – I would have ranked them seventh and eighth) because I think the two were incredibly evenly matched, and Sainz was only fractionally better. And as Sainz was in his sixth season and Norris his second, it makes perfect sense that Norris would have beaten Sainz had they remained teammates. For me, Lando Norris should easily be ranked third in 2021:

        Austria – Norris outqualified and outraced Sainz, scoring a very impressive podium with a fastest lap on the final lap. Sainz did a good job too, taking 5th place, but he was not on Norris’ level in Austria, and Norris takes an early lead in the rankings.
        Styria – Sainz puts in a superb lap to qualify third and is well ahead of Norris. He is then ahead of him for the first part of the race, before a very poor pitstop drops Sainz behind Norris, Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo. Norris has a very impressive end to the race as he passes three cars on the final two laps, and beats Sainz comfortably. Despite the poor pitstop and the excellent qualifying lap from Sainz, I thought Norris was better overall in Styria, so Norris increases his advantage slightly.
        Hungary – Norris outqualifies Sainz but has a very poor race and finishes along way behind his teammate. Sainz holds on to ninth in a solid, but unspectacular drive. Sainz closes the gap to Norris, but Norris still holds the lead.
        Britain – Norris outqualifies Sainz again, but Sainz overtakes him at the start and leads Norris for the majority of the race, before failing to look after his tyres sufficiently and dropping out of the points with a puncture at the end of the race. I rated them equally here, so Norris continues to hold the lead.
        Anniversary – The McLaren was not as fast as it had been in the first Silverstone race, and, in both qualifying and the race, Norris is just inside the top ten and Sainz is just outside of it. Norris therefore increases his advantage again at the top.
        Spain – Sainz just about outqualifies Norris, but then outclasses him in the race, with a very impressive drive to sixth while Norris is back in tenth. Sainz therefore closes in the gap, but Norris still holds a narrow advantage.
        Belgium – Sainz is the better McLaren in qualifying but fails to take the start due to an exhaust issue. Norris does a good job in the race, finishing seventh, so I rated them equally again, and Norris still holds a narrow lead.
        Italy – While Gasly and Stroll did get very lucky to be first and third, it is easy to forget that without the safety car, McLaren would have finished second and third on merit in Monza, so there was no luck involved in their 2-4 finish. Sainz put in one of the drives of the season to finish second, making plenty of overtakes, while Norris was less good than Sainz, but still impressive. I would argue that McLaren deserved a 1-2 finish in Monza, as Hamilton’s penalty was Mercedes’ own mistake. Sainz now takes over the lead in the rankings.
        Mugello – Sainz beat Norris in qualifying, but then dropped back at the start and was taken out in the start-line shunt. Norris put in a solid drive to sixth, and moves back ahead of Sainz overall, but only just.
        Sochi – This was a horrible race for McLaren. Sainz crashed out on the first lap trying to be too quick getting back on track. This was a very silly crash, in my opinion, so Sainz was rated poorly. Norris was very underwhelming as well, though, finishing a long way out of the points, so while Norris does increase his advantage, it is not by a huge amount.
        Nurburgring – Norris does a very good job with a power unit problem and runs ahead of Sainz for a while before eventually having to retire. He is also ahead in qualifying. Sainz does a solid job but is not particularly quick, so Norris extends his lead. At this point in the season, Lando Norris is fifth overall, while Carlos Sainz is only tenth.
        Portugal – A sensational first lap from Carlos Sainz sees him leading the race, but he eventually drops away and finishes sixth. Norris also does well, making up places at the start, but is hit by Stroll and loses any chance of scoring points. Sainz closes the lead gap to Norris, but Norris still holds a healthy lead.
        Imola – A very quiet race for McLaren, as Sainz and Norris take seventh and eighth in fairly anonymous fashion. Sainz is slightly better than Norris, though, so he slightly reduces the gap between the two McLarens.
        Turkey – Sainz has a brilliant race to finish fifth in Turkey and is not far away from the podium. Norris finishes a long way away from Sainz, but still scores good points in eighth., Nevertheless, Sainz closes the gap again and is now very close behind Norris.
        Bahrain – Sainz has to start a long way back on the grid due to a problem in qualifying, while Norris does a solid job. In the race, both McLarens are very impressive fighting through the pack and they finish 4th and 5th. Sainz is rated slightly higher here because he started further back, so he closes the lead gap again and is now very close to Norris.
        Sakhir – This actually turned out to be the defining race of the season. Sainz drove really well to finish fourth, while Norris is very disappointing, struggling to do a proper lap in qualifying and then finishing only tenth. The overall rankings now take a big swing in Sainz’s favour and he holds the lead going into the final round.
        Abu Dhabi – An excellent final round for McLaren, combined with a car failure for Perez, gives McLaren third in the constructors’ championship. Norris puts in a really impressive lap in qualifying to take fourth, and then is very slightly quicker than his teammate in the race. Norris therefore closes in, but Sainz wins overall by a tiny margin.
        Sainz’s final score was 7.529, and Norris’ was 7.471.

        1. Yeah. They were one of the closest matched driver pairs on the grid. Especially in qualifying. Sainz had bit of an advantage in race pace but much less than 2019. Of course Norris can beat Sainz in 2021 but it isn’t a certainty like you make it sound. Norris getting 3rd is acceptable too but that isn’t a easy pick either. Charles may have had a poor season by his standards. But if the car goes back to 2019 or prior levels I expect him to be right up there with Max Verstappen again.

          1. Yes, I suppose leclerc will extract relatively more from a car that can challenge for wins more regularly than he did this season.

      2. I don’t feel british bias is too prominent on this site btw, and just so you know I’m italian, so I personally have no reason to overrate british drivers, I think hamilton, norris and russell are 2nd, 3rd and 8th cause they deserve to be there with the performance they showed, I was disappointed by hamilton in the first half of the season, but he made up for it in the 2nd half; norris conversely was insane in the first half, the first time I saw him like a top driver and then wasn’t as sharp in the last part of the year, russell could arguably have been 10th I suppose, hard to rate him because of the bad car and of his team mate, he’s always been highly rated on this website, so he got the benefit of the doubt I guess.

        Onto ricciardo, he was indeed bad this season, and a swallow doesn’t make a spring (monza, which was a win on merit imo, even without verstappen out), so ofc norris had a weaker driver to compare with, ferrari’s drivers were more evenly matched when it comes to point-scoring, but to me, while cars were fairly evenly matched most of the year, each with its own strengths, ferrari really gained late in the season and if you argue sainz should be above norris, surely leclerc should be above norris too, I just don’t see how norris doesn’t deserve to be ahead of the ferrari drivers despite competing with them with an inferior car, it’s like there’s no significant difference between ricciardo and norris then.

        1. There is a significant difference between Leclerc and Ricciardo and also Sainz and Ricciardo too. Because Sainz and Norris were equal at McLaren with Sainz having more race pace. And Leclerc is someone who was around the level of Max 2 years ago in 2019.

  14. At this point rankings are basically set in stone: leclerc made a few too many mistakes although he proved faster than sainz, so can only be 4th, norris was excellent until the last few races and mclaren was worse than ferrari, so can only be 3rd, hamilton was excellent except a few mistakes and monaco early season, so can only be 2nd and verstappen only made some mistakes in inferior machinery late season and can only be 1st.

  15. someone or something
    24th January 2022, 14:22

    Leclerc really only had that one podium finish at Silverstone?!
    How’s that for a fact that sounds incorrect but really isn’t?

    Anyhow, I tip my hat to Sainz for being one of the most reliable, solid performers of the season. Considering how badly other drivers have struggled in their new teams, he did a great job. On the other hand, it has to be said that Leclerc was clearly the faster driver. Sainz may have outscored Leclerc in the end, but the fact that Leclerc finished ahead 14 times, against Sainz’s 6, already shows that this was a bit of an anomaly, more representative of Leclerc’s bad timing in terms of when to run into trouble. 3 out of 4 podiums for Sainz came about in races where unusual circumstances got in Leclerc’s way.
    There’s Monaco, where Leclerc was set to start from pole, but an undetected material failure confined him to the pits, on a day that could’ve just as well have been his best day in F1 so far.
    Or take Hungary, where Leclerc fell victim to one of the two “bowling” incidents at the start (the one caused by Stroll), while he was set to inherit second or third place behind Hamilton and possibly Ricciardo after the carnage caused by Bottas.
    And finally, Russia, where an engine penalty automatically confined him to the back row of the grid, on a day where Sainz demonstrated the front row was a real possibility.
    Had any of these unusual circumstances occurred on any other day, i.e. not necessarily on days where they would’ve caused swings in the order of 20 points each (such as the three races mentioned above), the standings would’ve told a different story.

    1. Vettel actually got more podiums than Leclerc this season.🤣🤣

      Then maFIA stole one away from him😪

    2. There’s Monaco, where Leclerc was set to start from pole, but an undetected material failure confined him to the pits, on a day that could’ve just as well have been his best day in F1 so far.

      He himself was responsible for that situation.
      He was the one that crashed his car and prevented faster times by bottas, Sainz and verstappen.

      1. I think it really was a Ferrari typical mistake not to detect it, seems difficult to imagine Red Bull, Mercedes, or indeed McLaren making that mistake erikje. But that said, yeah, it was Leclerc that made the mistake that caused the issue, so has to be partly on himself.

      2. someone or something
        24th January 2022, 17:09

        I didn’t claim the opposite. I just meant to say that this could’ve happened anytime, anywhere else, but it just so happened to be at the one place, the one time where it hurt him the most. Yeah, maybe he wouldn’t have got pole without the crash. But it’s not like he cheated his way to the top of the timesheet, either.
        And then there’s the fact that he wasn’t necessarily responsible for his DNS, either. Yes, he crashed, but it wasn’t really a major, weekend over, kind of crash, but the kind that’s usually fixable in a few hours’ work. Sergio Pérez had a crash like that in Spa on his way to the grid, and he even ended up taking part in the race after it got delayed.
        The thing is, Leclerc’s crew either missed a tiny fault, or it was indeed impossible to find without getting the car out on the track. But it was that fault, that would’ve been easy to fix if only they had spotted it, that curtailed his weekend.
        To me, that is a different degree of responsibility for his own misfortune than, say, crashing into the wall during the race would be. Everyone knows that crashing in qualifying is costly, but usually not the end of the world. Except, that one time it was, but not because Leclerc screwed up in a particularly bad way. No, that was random luck.

        1. Absolutely true, it was a repairable crash, such a shame we didn’t see monaco unfold with leclerc on pole and verstappen 2nd having to play it safe with hamilton so far back.

  16. In Sainz and Leclerc, Ferrari seem to have landed on 2 very quick, young drivers who are very equally matched, and very marketable too. I hope they stay teammates for a few years and help drag the Prancing Horse back to getting wins and fighting for Championships again soon

  17. Would appreciate those who are saying Leclerc had a crash-prone season to list all his mistakes and crashes this year.

  18. He’s ranked #3, #4, and now #5 in this ranking over the past 3 years. Pretty good for a guy that’s invisible on TV.

  19. Best performance of a driver joining a new team for 2021. Ferrari could be hard to beat this year!

    So far I don’t disagree with Keith’s driver rankings. My ranking of remaining drivers:
    1. Verstappen
    2. Hamilton
    3. Norris
    4. Leclerc


    1. I agree but I think they’re a no brainer, these rankings, I think it would be very very strange if they’re any different than this.

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