Leclerc rebounds from early setbacks to overtake Sainz ahead of summer break

2023 F1 team mate battles

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Carlos Sainz Jnr defied expectations by out-scoring Charles Leclerc in their first season as team mates two years ago. However he was unable to repeat the feat last year as he failed to click with the team’s new car until mid-season.

The 2023 championship began more promisingly for Sainz, though not for his team mate or, indeed, their team. Leclerc parked up with a power unit failure at the season-opener, a penalty for which compromised his next race in Jeddah, then was eliminated in a first-corner tangle in Melbourne.

Sainz capitalised with fourth and sixth places in the first two races, out-scoring Leclerc each time. He should have increased his margin in Australia, but sent Fernando Alonso spinning at the standing restart and copped a five-second time penalty. As the race ended behind the Safety Car, that dropped him from fourth to a point-less 12th.

After the penalty was announced Sainz pleaded at length with his team on his radio to campaign for it to be overturned. They tried, but it proved futile. Had Sainz not lost those points, Leclerc would not have re-passed him for fifth in the standings going into the summer break.

Leclerc’s points lead is a fair reflection of his often superior performances, though he’s had a few duff weekends too. The SF-23’s knife-edge handling has challenged both drivers, Leclerc crashing twice during the Miami Grand Prix weekend.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2023
Leclerc has scored well on sprint race weekends
Damp and intermediate conditions were a particular problem for Leclerc early in the season. Seeing him drop out of the first round in qualifying on a drying track at Circuit de Catalunya was a real shock. Leclerc was so spooked by his car’s behaviour he was convinced something was broken. But no fault was discovered.

Instead Leclerc set about modifying his driving style and that seems to have paid off. He was in fair better shape in the demanding conditions drivers faced at Spa-Francorchamps before the summer break. That, his peak finish of second in Austria and his brilliant weekend in Baku – notably all sprint race events – were much more like the standard we have come to expect from Leclerc.

That is a level which Sainz hasn’t regularly approached at his best, and if Leclerc is able to continue producing such performances in the season half of the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the gap between the Ferrari drivers widen further.

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

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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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25 comments on “Leclerc rebounds from early setbacks to overtake Sainz ahead of summer break”

  1. I see both of them have made a fair deal of mistakes. Sainz IMO reacted better to finding his own way despite the team not doing a good job with either the car, setup nor strategy, but when Leclerc gets it right, he is pretty clear the faster one.

    The biggest issue for both is the team though.

    1. The biggest issue for both is the team though.

      Completely agree. Both are being significantly hampered by Ferrari’s abysmal performance at race weekends. The car seems a bit of a handful but still fast, the drivers both have the potential to be battling for podiums even in that car, but whenever they look to be going well the team drops the ball.

  2. This has to be the most overrated driver combination of recent years.
    LeClerc is fast, but makes far too many mistakes for a top driver who’s been around as long as he has. To the point you almost expect him to bin it.
    And Saintz – isn’t especially fast, and isn’t especially consistent.

    Add them to a team that makes far, far, far too many mistakes and you have Ferrari.

    1. Everyone makes more mistakes when driving a problematic car, always driving on the edge just to follow the faster car in front of you, or trying to make up time lost by your team. We could see it with Hamilton also, far less consistent in a far less consistent car. They had a good start last season and it soon all went to hell. I don’t disagree with you, that’s how I see things too, more or less, but consistency is difficult to achieve in their situation. What I see with both drivers, but especially with Leclerc, is frustration with their team. Sainz deals with it better and tries to make his own strategies. Leclerc is steaming all the time, which doesn’t help his cause. He needs to grow up fast, because speed is there. As they say, you can find consistency, but it’s unlikely you’ll become faster.

  3. For me, he’s one of the top 5 drivers this season and he should be able to get at least 5 more podium finishes this season.

  4. Coventry Climax
    7th August 2023, 13:10

    I’m not sure this is entirely fair on Sainz.
    From time to time, he seems to outperform Leclerc, on merit.
    Both make mistakes they shouldn’t.

    It’s their team however, that makes the most mistakes and somehow doesn’t even seem capable of handling two drivers at the circuit at the same time, which means all their attention goes into the one driver in front, and the other driver suffers from that.

  5. I think Sainz gets a lot of unfair criticism sometimes but in fairness he really hasn’t pushed on when he’s had opportunities at Ferrari. He was very consistent in his last year at Mclaren and seemed a safe pair of hands but at Ferrari he’s performed below par too often and not really been able to string together a strong series of races that I can recall.

    Leclerc as been marginally better than Sainz particularly from the perspective of seemingly outperforming his car on occasions but ultimately he still seems very error prone and it’s not like he’s just a young rookie anymore.

    Unfortunately for both drivers, Ferrari are pretty woeful and have made far too many mistakes again which almost gives both drivers a free pass. I can’t see any compelling reason to replace either driver until the team fix their issues. On balance I thought Leclerc has hit the higher highs so far but he’s still had some disappointing lows along the way.

  6. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    7th August 2023, 14:14

    This leclerc makes mistakes narrative is a joke. Verstappen made more mistakes last year than leclerc but luckily he had that red bull rocketship and a competent team.

    Sainz just is too slow and when the opportunity presents itself for a good result from him he can’t capitalise on it. A massive mistake from binotto to re-sign last year as he’s an awful team player.

    1. I’m sure the narrative will stop when the mistakes do…

      1. I don’t think he’s made worse mistakes this year than anyone else. Sainz screwing up his Melbourne result was worse than anything Leclerc did.

    2. Not all mistakes are equal. Verstappen did outperform Leclerc even before RB outperformed Ferrari.

    3. I think Leclerc’s mistakes are generally costlier.. as compared to Max, who makes mistakes, but gets his head back in the game and recovers from them. Leclerc spinning in Imola last year and then binning it from the lead in France are prime examples of absolutely unnecessary mistakes. France put the biggest dent possible in his WDC fight last season.

      I have to say I’m a bit disappointed in Leclerc overall though. We know he has the pace and race craft, but there are weekends where he just doesn’t show up. He should be dominating a driver of Sainz’s calibre… and he’s been failing to do that.

      I just don’t see Leclerc improving as a driver as long as he’s at Ferrari though. If he moves to Mercedes, he’ll become a fair more serious title contender.

    4. This leclerc makes mistakes narrative is a joke. Verstappen made more mistakes last year than leclerc

      can you back this up with a comparison. I did not saw them.
      Even leclerc has a different viewpoint on this.

      Max and Red Bull have been nearly faultless this season

      “The performance was probably there, but [there were] too many mistakes, reliability [issues], strategy [errors], also my mistakes cost some points, and on that we need to get better. Max has done a good job.”

      Leclerc hopes that he can continue to take lessons from his errors.

      “Learning from mistakes I think is the main thing,” he continued.

  7. And who would they replace him with, alonso? Unlikely given their past spell together, then I don’t see who else could be an upgrade over sainz that would want to leave, merc drivers are set, leaving mclaren atm would be dumb.

    1. @esploratore1

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ferrari make a move for Piastri or Albon. I feel both would be doing a better job than Sainz.

  8. In my opinion Leclerc is better than Sainz all day long. He’s faster and in most situations makes the best of his opportunities. He can make mistakes but he’s more likely to get the better results. I have always thought Sainz is a little over-rated. Never Championship winning material but at the top of the group below.

    I think it’s still a good pairing. Of the current drivers, I cannot see who could replace either of them that would be better, excluding those already at RBR, Merc or McLaren. I cannot see Alonso going back to Ferrari.

  9. The start of the 2022 season showed that Leclerc is probably good enough to win a title in a competitive car, a bit like guys like Häkkinen or Button were. But on the whole the difference to Sainz is just not that big, and over 100 GPs into both their careers I’m not sure there’s much reason to expect that to change. I suppose it’s unfair to compare anyone to Schumacher, but there’s just not that vibe that he’s able to really push the team forward and have this appeal that makes people want to come work with him.

  10. Sainz just brings the points. In the same way he was unable to win a race last year on normal circustances (being the fastest) with a car capable of winning, he is now with a car capable of podiums.

    Leclerc has some and he wasn’t even close to getting one.

    He has the skills of a number 2 but doesn’t want to play the wingman role, so Ferrari should start looking for someone else like Hulkenberg or Bottas, older capable guys, and maybe better drivers than Sainz, and ready to play 2nd fiddle to Leclerc at anytime.

  11. Why did Leclerc crash twice during the Miami Grand Prix weekend?

  12. What were the factors that contributed to Leclerc’s retirement from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

  13. What were Leclerc’s early setbacks in the 2023 F1 season?

  14. What are Leclerc’s chances of winning the 2023 F1 championship?

    1. I thought the 2023 championship was wrapped up during pre season testing.

      1. @todfod you don’t seem to realise that you are replying to a spambot that has been embedding malicious links in their username – unfortunately, despite being notified about it, it seems that Keith and the other moderators on this site are not paying any attention to the problem.

  15. I am sure the car is a handful so difficult to judge. I do however still get the feeling both drivers are mistake prone and lack consistency. Might be all car. Lets hope it for them, otherwise I do not see a Max challenger in the both of them.

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