(L to R): Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022

Leclerc asserts his supremacy but Sainz’s improving form should concern him

2022 F1 team mate battles: Leclerc vs Sainz

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In their first season as team mates last year, newcomer Carlos Sainz Jnr surprisingly out-scored incumbent Charles Leclerc. The latter flipped the result this season. Was this a case of ‘normal service resumed’?

Not quite. Indeed, 2022 was arguably a more promising campaign for Sainz on the whole, even taking his early setbacks into account. He was never able to make up the deficit which grew as he acclimatised to the F1-75, but ended the season looking much more of a match for his team mate.

While Leclerc and the F1-75 clicked immediately, Sainz couldn’t get comfortable at the limit in the car. They finished one-two at the season opener, but Leclerc was far ahead of his team mate when the Safety Car came out.

A spate of errors compromised four consecutive difficult races for Sainz. He spun out lap two in Melbourne, crashed out even earlier at Imola along with Daniel Ricciardo, hit the wall again during practice in Miami and ran off track during his home grand prix in Spain. Meanwhile, Leclerc was in the thick of the title fight with Max Verstappen – at least, until his turbo broke.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Leclerc scored three of Ferrari’s four wins
Sainz began to get to grips with his Ferrari at the mid-point in the season, though it wasn’t always obvious as the team’s technical troubles and strategic miscues occasionally tipped the balance. That was the case in Canada, where Leclerc picked up the first of Ferrari’s many grid penalties for power unit parts changes, and in Britain, where he was on course to win until a late Safety Car period swung the race Sainz’s way, leading to his first and to date only victory.

Over the second half of the year Sainz was gave a better account of himself in qualifying, and grew frustrated at how often he came within less than a tenth of a second of taking pole position. With cruel luck, when he claimed one of his few pole positions at Circuit of the Americas, he was taken out at the start by George Russell.

By RaceFans’ measure, the qualifying score-line between the two was identical to last year’s. In the races, however, Sainz fared better, evening up the score over the course of the season at rounds where both drivers saw the chequered flag.

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Transcript: How Red Bull seized a win that ‘Ferrari looked like they had in the bag’
This was due in part to Sainz’s forthrightness on the radio, which served him well on occasions when his team found themselves in two minds about what to do. In Monaco he made it explicitly clear he meant to avoid the trap of switching to intermediate tyres as the track dried out, and jumped ahead of his team mate by doing so. Leclerc suffered as a result of Ferrari’s tactical calls on several later occasions, though it’s by no means the case that he might have persuaded the team to make a better decision on every occasion.

Taking the season as a whole Leclerc undoubtedly was the quicker of the two Ferrari drivers. But if he felt relaxed about the competition from the other side of the garage at the beginning of the year, by the end of the season Sainz was increasingly keeping him honest. Leclerc may have reversed the points defeat he suffered last year, but Sainz improved his performance by other measures, and if he starts next season in more competitive shape the pendulum could swing back his way.

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Qualifying results based on regular sessions only, not sprint races. If both drivers set times in Q3 that session is used to determine the winner, failing that Q2 is used, failing that Q1 is used, otherwise no winner is defined

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Leclerc was faster; Positive value: Sainz was faster

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2022 F1 season

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Author information

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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18 comments on “Leclerc asserts his supremacy but Sainz’s improving form should concern him”

  1. Thought Sainz was pretty poor in the first half of the season, but did indeed get on terms with Leclerc in the second half – which is where he should be, I don’t really think there’s much difference in overall talent levels. Both drivers had awful luck, often inflicted by their own team, but both also made some major errors of their own. One thing Leclerc could learn from Sainz is being more assertive with the team about his own strategy.

    1. @tflb

      Thought Sainz was pretty poor in the first half of the season, but did indeed get on terms with Leclerc in the second half

      I honestly don’t get why people are saying he came back strong in the second half. I’m, surprised that even this article doesn’t take in to account the races that Sainz had all the luck in the world to finish in front of Leclerc.

      Let’s break down every time Sainz finished in front –
      1) Monaco – Leclerc was in front of his teammate on merit .. and faster as well. The team made catastrophic calls, dropping Leclerc from P1 to P4. I wouldn’t call this a W for Sainz at all. Sainz got lucky to finish in front.
      2) Canada – Leclerc was stuck in the garage after Q1 and so he didn’t even get to qualify. He started P15. If both drivers had completed qualifying, it would have been more likely that Leclerc would have out qualified and outraced Sainz.
      3) Britain – Sainz might have taken pole… but he was not match for Leclerc on raceday, even though Leclerc was racing with a damaged wing. Leclerc was miles ahead of Sainz, and again the team messed up Leclerc’s strategy and gave Sainz the race winning strategy to jump his teammate in the closing laps. Sainz got lucky AGAIN.
      4) Hungary – I should just copy paste Britain for Hungary. Sainz got Lucky for the THIRD TIME.
      5) Belgium – Leclerc was already going to take a penalty, so there was little point in him going for pole. He gave Sainz a tow. I’ll give credit to Sainz for this weekend though.. as he looked like had the measure of Charles. I would say that this was the first time on merit that Sainz performed better than Leclerc.
      6) Mexico – Sainz was slightly quicker than Charles. This is only the 2nd time all season he’s beaten Leclerc on merit.
      7) Brazil – Sainz got a little lucky again when Ferrari messed up Charles Q3 and he started in P10. On the race weekend, Leclerc looked much quicker in the sprint and even in the race. It’s hard to say Sainz beat him on merit.. but let’s give Carlos some very gracious benefit of the doubt and say he did this on merit as well.

      So, in the 7 races that Sainz finished ahead, he ONLY FINISHED 3 TIMES AHEAD ON MERIT. That’s only 3 race weekends out of 22 that he was actually faster than Charles. The races that Carlos didn’t finish –
      Australia – Crashed out
      Imola – Crashed out
      Austria – Trailing his teammate
      Japan – Crashed out while he was trailing his teammate anyways
      USA – First lap contact.. which I thought he was part to blame.

      I think Sergio Perez was quicker than Verstappen 3 times this season on merit… so that’s how Sainz honestly compares to Leclerc. It’s a joke that people here try to skew facts to say Sainz found form in the 2nd half of the season and all such nonsense. Next, I’ll probably see an article about how Ocon was better than Alonso this season because the scoreboard says so.

      1. +

        Finally normal observing! Charles is a ahead of Sainz in any way. Carlos getting obliterated every race in a race trim. Yes Carlos can have a great qualy lap but he was ahead on all the races because of bad Ferraris strategy. I lost my mind what they did to Charles in Silverstone. Charles who was fighting for the win with a broken front wing, still faster than Carlos, getting screwed by Ferrari wanted to give Carlos Sr. and Santander satisfaction. Charles is all alone in Ferrari, and with his honesty and humbleness and naivety getting tricked by Ferrari who are here to promote brend at the end of the day…

      2. I guess you could say Sainz improved in the 2nd half because the three races he finished ahead of Leclerc were towards the end of the season. I tend to agree with you through. Sainz is a solid points scorer most days but he’s never going to be a real contender like Leclerc.

      3. Yes, agree with this, this is the analysis to do, and also not impressed by sainz. The only thing he has on leclerc is he’s more assertive with strategy, and that’s a good thing to have given he’s a ferrari driver.

      4. Well said.

  2. Sainz never matched the pace of his team mate, neither in Qualifying nor in Race. All the Sainz ahead (Monaco, GB, Hun, Belgium or Brazil Q) are just because of Ferrari’s bad strategies (and/or Leclerc’s penalties), some in Q you should clean the stats by deleting the tracks where one was in penalty (e.g. Canada, Mexico). It remains nothing. The truth is that on track Leclerc had almost everywhere 0.5 s. better pace or the like. In Q less but more than enough to achieve so many poles. Or if you prefer in other words: Leclerc matched Verstappen until Ferrari was matching Red Bull, Sainz never did. No comparison at all in 2022.

    1. Sainz wasn’t 0,5s slower than Leclerc, obviously there were some outliers when he was nowhere and Leclerc had much better pace but the average gap between them was less than 2 tenths.

      “Leclerc matched Verstappen until Ferrari was matching Red Bull, Sainz never did”

      Yes because Sainz prefers a car which understeers and Ferrari came up with a car this season which had a nervous back end, so when Ferrari was matching Red Bull on pace he didn’t have the confidence to push or he ended up in the gravel if he tried (Melbourne, Imola qualy, Barcelona) and once Ferrari introduced some modifications to make the car more stable they were no longer on Red Bull’s level so Sainz couldn’t fight Verstappen even though he was doing similar lap times compared to Leclerc. Ferrari in general needs to decide how they will adress this problem. If they want to please both drivers who want different things in terms of car development, then with the cost cap they will always run out of money earlier than for example Red Bull who are focusing on Max and don’t care that the car is “undriveable” for others. If they chose sides then either Leclerc or Sainz will leave because neither of them would accept the role of a n2 driver.

      1. I don’t think Leclerc will be unhappy with a car that has a more stable rear end. That he can deal with an unstable rear end, doesn’t mean he cannot be super fast when it is more stable. From what Ferrari say about turning down the engine to avoid further blown up engines, it is quite possible that was as big a factor in the team dropping away from Red Bull on pace as having less effective updates was.

        I do think that once Sainz got a handle on the car, he was far more well matched against Leclerc and his solid race performance, combined with his way of dealing with strategy and being reasonably close on qualifying pace should mean they will most likely be closely matched overall next year.

        The bigger question will be what the engine will be like next year, whether they find some pace and whether they manage to get a team boss and tactics team together that can avoid all the costly mistakes.

  3. It’s an interesting pairing. Sainz is a crafty guy, and he rightly has the third best average finishing position of the season, well clear of Pérez and the Mercedes duo. However, there’s also no denying that Leclerc has had his results dragged down by bad strategies, engine penalties, and other shenanigans. Looking ahead to the 2023 season, it seems like the main weaknesses of Leclerc’s campaign can be fixed externally by better team operations, whereas Sainz major challenge is that he is – on the whole – just not quite as fast as Leclerc (although as noted, his qualifying record is rather unfortunate as he has often been extremely close). Those are different challenges, and it might even give Sainz the advantage because he, more so than Leclerc, has more control over his problems.

    1. Good point there MichaelN.

      I tend to agree, when you are more in control of the issue to solve it is easier to focus on it, whereas Leclerc will probably grow frustrated more and more with the bad team work around him.

  4. MichaelN MichaelN
    1st December 2022, 15:40


  5. I think this assessment flatters Sainz a bit. On numerous occasions Sainz benefited from Ferrari’s strategy or machinery failing Leclerc. In every occasion I can recall Leclerc was ahead when the team or the call let him down resulting in Sainz benefiting with more points.

    1. It should be kept in mind that some of those strategic calls were made by Sainz rather than Ferrari’s strategy team.
      The impression so far of Charles and Carlos is that their strengths lie in different areas; Charles being the faster driver, but Carlos ahead in his ability to read a race and weather conditions, consequently enabling him to earlier make strategic calls that aid his final position.
      This is a benefit for Ferrari, rather than having two drivers whose strengths overlap too much.
      Hopefully over time Charles and Carlos will learn more from each other, and become stronger drivers as a result.

  6. Count me as another commenter who didn’t quite see where Carlos improved enough to pose a concern to Charles, reliability notwithstanding.

  7. The only metric where Sainz clearly beats Leclerc is self-belief. When he’s interviewed, I think I’m hearing a team leader who has almost achieved great things, had it not been for unforeseen or uncontrolled obstacles beyond his control. Leclerc, on the other hand, always seems a bit too doubtful, reflective but a bit too critical.

  8. Both underwhelming. Neither have “it”.

  9. There is talk of Ferrari’s mistakes, but there is no talk of pitstop failures, some of Lecrec’s caused by going long

Comments are closed.