Ferrari reaping the benefits of having F1’s most closely-matched team mates

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Red Bull may have dominated the 2023 championship but scarcely a weekend goes by without the team facing questions over the only aspect of their operation which has conspicuously under-performed. Max Verstappen, may have single-handledly scored enough points to put them in the lead of the constructors’ championship but team mate Sergio Perez has contributed less than half as many.

The situation at Ferrari is very different. The Scuderia’s points haul has been shared almost evenly by its two drivers. No other team has been as equally reliant on its pairing: Just 20 points separate Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc in the standings.

It’s been the case previously as well. Sainz was their top-scorer when their current line-up was first formed in 2021, Leclerc came out ahead last year. So far this season, with a combined haul of 349 points, Sainz has contributed 52.4% of the team’s total.

In sharp contract, 67.2% of Red Bull’s points have been scored by Verstappen and his tally alone would put the team atop of the standings by a huge 120-point margin. Ferrari are currently in third, and have three weekends to close a 22-point gap to Mercedes in second.

Moreover, as Ferrari have got a better handle on their car since the summer break, Sainz and Leclerc have claimed two pole positions each from the last six grands prix. In terms of race performance they still come up short against Red Bull, but Sainz’s Singapore Grand Prix victory is the only defeat anyone has managed to inflict upon the champions all year, and it came thanks in part to Leclerc’s assistance having qualified within a tenth of a second of his team mate.

In Mexico the pair locked out the front row of the grid and came home in third and fourth places. “Overall they had the same pace all over the weekend,” said Ferrari’s team principal Frederic Vasseur.

“In Singapore in qualifying we had less than five hundredths, in Monza we had three hundredths. It’s like this from the beginning of the season, except one or two exceptions. They are almost at the same pace on every single event.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Vasseur may have fractionally exaggerated the closeness between the two – Sainz beat Leclerc by 0.079 seconds in Singapore and 0.067s at Monza – but these are nonetheless incredibly close.

Prior to their pole positions in Austin and Mexico City, Ferrari were off the pace at Suzuka and Losail. The team’s senior performance engineer Jock Clear noted that “you need a bit of a broader operating window to get a really good race” and get the best out of both drivers. “That’s where Red Bull’s strength is, their operating window is very wide.”

But when the Ferrari SF-23 has been in its performance window Leclerc and Sainz have tended to optimise it during qualifying. Clear said Leclerc’s pole positions at the last two grands prix, off the back of improvements that have made him more comfortable in the SF-23, are “a manifestation of that narrow window” in which the Ferrari is at its strongest.

“But it’s also, to come to a completely different aspect, the fact Carlos and Charles have been very close this season. Both of our drivers have been really pushing hard. So Charles struggled for a couple of races to be quicker than Carlos, but they were races where Carlos was seriously quick. You look at Singapore, and Carlos was absolutely on it.”

That was “a really good benefit” for the team in Mexico, said Clear. “Now that we’re on one and two on the grid, that shows that both our drivers now recognise ‘okay, we’re both good at this and we’re just going to have to challenge each other every week’.

“I think Charles will settle down with that. What we’ve seen here is a very, very solid job from both drivers.”

Leclerc edged Sainz by 0.067s to claim pole in Mexico City qualifying, and on average the pace difference between them in qualifying has been tiny: just 0.0001s in Leclerc’s favour. In percentage pace terms, taking into account the difference in circuit lengths, Sainz has on average has on average been 0.026% faster than his team mate.

It’s a far cry from the situation at Red Bull and a few other teams. And it’s especially important for Ferrari to maximise the performance of both cars as they work to overcome their 22-point deficit to Mercedes in the constructors’ championship over the final three rounds.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Mexican Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Mexican Grand Prix articles

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

2 comments on “Ferrari reaping the benefits of having F1’s most closely-matched team mates”

  1. What are they reaping, though? They’ve been trailing Mercedes all season. The gap isn’t that big, but it’s fairly constant and it doesn’t look like they’re strong enough in the races to change that without Mercedes dropping the ball.

    Even if Verstappen’s share of Red Bull’s points at almost 70% is not normal, Hamilton has scored almost 60% of Mercedes total. If anything, it seems fair to ask why Leclerc – ostensibly the lead Ferrari driver – has not even scored 50% of Ferrari’s total. Or in other words, why he’s being outscored by Sainz. Again!

    It obviously doesn’t work this way, but just as bit of a ‘what if’. If Leclerc had scored a somewhat modest 55% of Ferrari’s total, and Sainz’ current points tally was not 52% but rather 45% – Ferrari would be well clear of Mercedes in the standings.

    1. Yes, in a way I’m surprised leclerc isn’t beating sainz by a bigger margin, although we’ve also seen that he tends to do better when the car is faster in relation to sainz (see 2022), I had noticed the significant scoring difference at mercedes too, where hamilton has 50% more points than russell.

      Maybe sainz is better than we give him credit for, however based on what I’ve seen until now I don’t think he’s any better than russell or perez in a decent season, so I indeed expected a bit more from leclerc; even norris is massively beating piastri in points.

Comments are closed.