With the season of 2021, Carlos Sainz Jr will become a driver representing Scuderia Ferrari alongside Charles Leclerc, after turbulent changes that happened in the drivers market before the season of 2020 has even started. With his move from McLaren to the team from Maranello, someone who worked for a decade with the team had a warning for the young Spaniard.
Rob Smedley, best known for his role as the race engineer of Felipe Massa at Ferrari, as well as former Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, after being asked in the F1 Nation podcast if he had any advice for Sainz Jr regarding his move to Ferrari, replied: “Grow a thick skin, a really thick skin, you’re going to need it”.
Looking back at his own time in Ferrari, and reflecting upon the politicised structures of the team, Smedley said: “Like a lot of us who lasted a long time there, Ferrari becomes a part of you. And there are wonderful, really amazing things about Ferrari. And there are some really dreadful things about Ferrari. [At] Ferrari, there is no second best. Second best is never good enough. It’s kind of a culture that’s been built in Mercedes now as well, but definitely at Ferrari, you’ve got the added pressure of the media, the fans. It’s a national institution, it’s a religion”
He added: “Even when you’re leaving the office and you might go out to a restaurant or a little cafe or whatever, you don’t even have to be anywhere near Maranello, people know who you are, people will give you their clear opinion about what they think about Ferrari and what they think about you, because that’s just what they do, and that pressure never ever goes away.”
He ended his warning on a positive note, saying “The beauty about Ferrari, it’s always about Ferrari, it’s never about individuals, and they’re relentless and ruthless in their pursuit to win. But if you can withstand that bit, and you can stand the test of time there, as I’m sure Carlos, we’re going to see whether he can or not – I don’t know Carlos very well but he seems like a guy that will be able to get on in that environment very well – he’s going to love it.”
It is not a secret to anyone who has followed F1 for even a short amount of time that Ferrari is a team with heavy politics inside it, dictating the life of the team. It is also not a secret how much the team means for many, especially one from its home - Italy, and that the team has a very particular presence within the sport. For Sainz Jr, there will definitely be a difficulty to compete with Charles Leclerc, the Monegasque openly embraced by Ferrari, and we can expect lots of pressure on the Spaniard to perform well and represent the team from Maranello.