If anyone expected Charles Leclerc to be a clear number one at Ferrari after the team parted ways with Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz Jnr proved them wrong during his first season in 2021.
It would not be the case. Instead, Sainz suffered a conspicuously challenging start to the season. He was clearly not on the same page as his team mate with the new F1-75. Although Sainz did a decent enough job over the first two rounds in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia the pace difference between him was as blinding as the floodlights lining the two circuits.
While he backed up his team mate to establish Ferrari as early championship contenders to Red Bull, his solid start to the season began to crumble. He was unlucky in Melbourne qualifying, frustrated by a red flag and then delayed leaving the pits through no fault of his own leaving him ninth on the grid. But in his haste to gain places, a silly spin on the second lap ended his chances of points in an Albert Park gravel trap.
He could have bounced back in front of the Tifosi in Imola, but spinning out at the second Rivazza and damaging his car in the barriers in Q2 did little to help. He recovered well enough in the sprint race to claim fourth on the grid behind Sergio Perez, but an unfortunate incident with Ricciardo at the first chicane sent him spinning out of the race for a second consecutive round.
No matter. He could make amends in Miami – an entirely new circuit. But brows on the Ferrari pit wall furrowed even deeper in second practice when he spun at the slippery approach to the back chicane, clattering hard into the barriers and leaving his mechanics with a heavy overnight repair job. After completing their work, Sainz took his rebuilt car to a podium. But he openly admitted his fitness was not at 100% after he’d failed to run a full race distance over the last two rounds.
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While Leclerc took another pole in Barcelona, Sainz again could not prevent Max Verstappen from beating him to the front row. He lost two places off the line by almost jumping the start and when he ran off the circuit entirely unprovoked just a handful of laps into the race, it appeared that Ferrari could be feeling buyer’s remorse having only just re-signed Sainz to a substantial contract extension.
The volume of errors Sainz was producing was not good enough for any team, let alone the high expectations of Ferrari. However, he finally began to turn things around. In a difficult race in changeable conditions in Monaco, Sainz kept his head better than his own strategists did, wisely staying on his wet tyres until he could switch onto slicks, jumping his team mate to take second place.
He came close to victory in Canada, leading the charge for Ferrari as Leclerc was hampered with engine penalties. He placed Verstappen under as much pressure as he could over the later laps, but no one was stopping Verstappen that afternoon.
Finally, Sainz’s breakthrough came at Silverstone. A first career pole helped in no small part by Leclerc’s Q3 error holding up Verstappen gave Sainz his best ever prospect of a win. He lost the lead to Verstappen off the line, but was granted a second chance by Zhou Guanyu’s horrific race-stopping accident. He benefited greatly from the chance to pit under the final Safety Car, unlike Leclerc, but he managed to overtake his team mate and escape the pack, finally joining the ranks of Formula 1’s race winners.
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By his own admission, Sainz had to work out how to adjust his driving style to wring pace from the F1-75. He showed his improvement through this middle phase of the year, but was hampered by Ferrari’s woeful reliability. Hydraulics problems cost him any chance of a podium in Baku and he was moments away from snatching second place from Verstappen in Austria when his power unit failed, prompting a spectacular conflagration.
Sainz served his inevitable power unit change grid penalty in Paul Ricard and after helping Leclerc to pole position in qualifying, he did a commendable job of working his way up the order – despite his team’s strategy – to claim a decent haul of points in fifth. He almost took pole in Hungary and beat Leclerc in the race thanks to another poor Ferrari strategy call, but lost the final podium spot to Hamilton in the closing laps.
Sainz was now performing at his best level all year, but Ferrari’s form was starting to drop. He wasn’t helped by a penalty for an unsafe pit lane release in Zandvoort costing him three places at the chequered flag and he did another admirable job to recover from 18th on the grid in Monza to finish fourth, passing Sergio Perez in the process.
Sainz’s strong end to the season was marred somewhat by him losing control on a soaking wet opening lap in Suzuka, wrecking his car. He looked set to make amends in the next round at the Circuit of the Americas, taking a well-deserved pole position. However, any hopes of victory faded the moment the lights went out. After a poor getaway that lost him the lead, he was tagged and spun by George Russell, ending his race.
By now, however, the championships were out of reach and all that Sainz could race for was pride. In Brazil, he outperformed Leclerc across the weekend, the only driver able to hang with the two Mercedes during the race to secure third – the best position he could have realistically hoped to get. But as the season came to an end in Abu Dhabi, he was beaten by his team mate a final time, Leclerc making more out of his one-stop strategy than Sainz was able to with his extra stop.
At the end of the season, Sainz had shown enough reason to convince Ferrari they had made the right choice in extending him until the end of 2024. But with Ferrari and Sainz both hoping to remain in the hunt for the titles, Sainz knows that he cannot afford as many errors as he was guilty of in 2022, and must carry the improved pace of his second half of the season into next year.
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27 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #10: Carlos Sainz Jnr”
15th December 2022, 17:29
This almost certainly means that Leclerc will be behind Norris and the Merc drivers. Perez and Vettel should not be ahead of Sainz otherwise.
15th December 2022, 18:59
I’m not sure I follow your logic here. Why would Leclerc be behind Norris based off this rating?
Vettel in the top 9 is crazy to me but Perez did have a standout drive in Singapore – Sainz lucked into his win and never collected the pieces when Ferrari let Charles down.
I think Carlos being behind Ocon and Vettel despite winning a race is a bit tough tbh, regardless of how lucky that result was.
16th December 2022, 16:13
Why should Vettel not be ahead of Sainz? He had a backmarker for most of the first half and consistently over-delivered whereas Sainz consistently underdelivered.
In Silverstone he was slower than his teammate with a broken front wing.
He needed 10 races to get his first pole and win in the fastest car and that was also by luck and not merit.
Vettel would’ve won a lot of races in this year’s Ferrari at his current form.
16th December 2022, 23:05
I’m really not convinced. Stroll and Vettel retired 3 times each and Seb missed the first 2 rounds. In the races they both finished Seb was ahead 8-6. In qualifying both ended up out in q1 10 times with Seb making q3 5 times to Stroll’s 3.
Vettel raced Leclerc as recently as 2 years ago and was demolished – there was nothing this season bar a decent final lap in COTA and a good drive in Japan that suggests he was near his peak.
Vettel was 14th in the mid season ranking and was up against a pay driver in his father’s team that has been beaten by his team-mate almost every season. This was not vintage Vettel.
Sainz for his many shortcomings did at least win a race and be on pole and was making small inroads into Charles.
15th December 2022, 17:40
How is Slowrez ahead of Sainz?
Sainz scored 44,4% of Ferrari’s points this year and 25% of their wins
Barricheco scored 40,1 of Red Bull’s points and 11,7% of their wins
And I would add that Sainz was really unlucky in 2022 with his 6 DNFs and despite that he did better.
15th December 2022, 17:53
You are late to the party. Perez is probably the most overrated and luckiest driver in F1 history. Racefans love him. He has had stupidly high ratings over the years and this year is the same.
15th December 2022, 18:46
Perez delivered…likely the slowest driver in the top 6, maybe on par with Sainz.
Perez however didn;t bin it on raceday like all Ferrari and Mercedes drivers did…several times.
Perez also made the correct call for tyres, cant be said about Sainz, Leclerc and Hamilton.
There’s more to it than blistering pace and bin it or getting the strategy or tyres choices totally wrong.
15th December 2022, 19:15
Yet Perez is the one who had the biggest gap to his teammate. Lol. Perez has been an embarrassment ever since he came into the Red Bull. He was expected to be much better than Albon. Yet he had an awful 2021 season. Got even less % of Max’s points than Albon got in 2020. Couldn’t even get P2 in a car which his teammate utterly dominated this year. A good example of a car carrying a mediocre driver.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
15th December 2022, 22:45
Verstappen has also however been a far better driver in 2021 and 2022 when he’s been against Perez. And he’s been by far the best driver this season. So comparing points gap between team mates to decide driver rankings is somewhat inaccurate in my opinion.
Perez has had a decent season with no huge errors on race day.
16th December 2022, 9:05
@Ben Rowe-Any competent driver would have a season similar to that of Perez in that Red Bull. What he is doing in that team isn’t worth praising. That is disrespectful to other drivers who aren’t so lucky.
15th December 2022, 18:08
That’s the only take you can get to make Sainz look good. Nice try.
Different from Perez, he is no number 2. He had everything he needed to beat Leclerc and yet, as you pointed out, did almost as bad even being compared to a driver that had a much, much sloppier season than Verstappen.
There’s no way around it. Sainz was very very disappointing this year. With the car Leclerc was runner up, he had to get lucky that Hamilton DNFd on the last race to finish 5th.
Should be rated even lower.
15th December 2022, 18:44
Sainz had 6 DNFs and only 1 of those was completely his fault and maybe you can put some blame on him for Japan but the race was immediatelly red flagged after that and we waited for over an hour before it was resumed. In the other 4 races he either got taken out by other drivers or had a mechanical failure. Sainz wasn’t impressive this year, but he was still much better than Slowrez and he showed progress over the course of the season while Barricheco was getting slower compared to GOATtappen towards the second half of the season.
15th December 2022, 23:57
At some point if you keep having accidents then you’re partly to blame.
16th December 2022, 13:14
What progrèss did he show? He was quicker than Leclerc on only 3 weekends the entire year. That’s the same as Perez when compared to Max.
Sainz was rubbish.. very similar to his 2018 season against the Hulk.
15th December 2022, 19:17
Don’t take it too serious
15th December 2022, 18:24
He was subpar. On some races, terribly slow. In Singapore the gaps were undone 2 or 3 times and it took no more than half a dozen of laps for him to be 12 sec behind again. Unbelievable.
Had his share of bad luck and mistakes as well, and the good moments are too few and not really that impressive.
On the first really competitive car he’d driven, he looked like a 2nd rate driver. An improvement for next season is a must.
15th December 2022, 19:09
Lol. That’s a weird logic. No one was expecting Sainz to beat Leclerc. But Sainz has matched Leclerc for the most part. He is underrated.
15th December 2022, 19:23
Not really. Whenever Sainz was ahead of Leclerc, there was usually some external reason like engine penalties or one of Ferrari’s genius strategies. @todfod compiled a good overview of the second half of the season in the earlier teammate comparison: https://www.racefans.net/2022/12/01/leclerc-asserts-his-supremacy-but-sainzs-improving-form-should-concern-him/#comment-4883246
That said, he did stay closer to Leclerc than Pérez did to Verstappen. Not sure why RaceFans thinks Pérez did a better job. He wasn’t even close to Verstappen’s level, and couldn’t even finish 2nd in the Red Bull.
15th December 2022, 19:27
Leclerc beat him by 50 points and if anything, the gap should be bigger.
All of Sainz’s dnfs and issues cost him little, as he barely even lead a race this year. Leclerc on the other hand should have won at least 3 more races.
But yeah, i guess my logic is weird, Sainz did a great job, Ferrari was the 3rd best car and he was 5th. Leclerc was 2nd. Talk about a close contest lol
15th December 2022, 23:59
Ferrari over the year were comfortably faster than Mercedes bar maybe 3 or 4 races.
16th December 2022, 0:09
Exactly, which is his point: coming 5th, almost 6th with the 2nd best car doesn’t look good when your team mate ends up 2nd.
16th December 2022, 0:10
Well, maybe not his point, but reinforces the point that sainz didn’t do a good job.
16th December 2022, 2:26
indeed. But these guys are making up so much stuff to make Sainz look better (his % of team points is superior to Perez….jeez…) that fiinishing the season 5th with the 3rd fastest car sounds much better than 5th with the 2nd fastest car for a driver that is “matching Leclerc for the most part” lol
16th December 2022, 0:00
I think this is a fair rating, he under delivered on the capability of the car and had few highlights this year. One to forget about and move on next year.
16th December 2022, 3:52
Sainz might deserve 10th – if Perez had been ranked 12th.
Still, it’s random number time like those post race rankings.
16th December 2022, 16:19
Is tenth deserved or not ? For sure he’s not been on it this year unfortunately.
Too many times this year he looked a bit clueless on pace, either in quali or in the races. Tyre management didn’t look great either and he binned it in the rain despite it being one of his strong aspects.
I really hope he can bounce back in 2023 !
16th December 2022, 16:25
Can someone from racefans answer why some drivers “nicknames” or more like mocking namew are ok but if you write all of them then you cannot publish it. It wasn’t meant to be mean. I just cannot understand why it is ok to write mocking names from verstappen or hamilton but not for every driver in one post?
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