Carlos Sainz won his first Grand Prix at the 150th attempt at this year’s British Grand Prix. The pace of the Spaniard has been clear to see throughout the first half of the season but a combination of strategical errors, driver errors and simple bad luck has seen the popular Spanish racer fall back from the leading pack in the F1 Drivers’ Championship. Nevertheless, with the second half of the season upon us, Sainz feels that there is still a lot of success still to come his way in 2022.
Speaking during the weekend of the Hungarian Grand Prix to F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto, the popular Spanish racer shared his thoughts on his performance, the spotlight being shone on his team’s strategical calls and the way Charles Leclerc pushes him to drive to his very best.
After of run of 31 completed races across two seasons, back-to-back uncharacteristic driver errors in Australia and Imola caused a lot of damage to Carlos Sainz’ title prospects. When this was coupled with PU issues in later races – Azerbaijan and Austria – the knives were out in the media for Scuderia Ferrari. Especially seeing how in between those two races, Carlos Sainz had claimed his first F1 Grand Prix victory after his Silverstone victory, which left many to wonder what could have been.
“It’s been a rollercoaster season, especially the beginning,” says Sainz in his discussion with Lawrence Barretto (full interview here https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.sainz-on-his-rollercoaster-2022-season-and-why-he-has-no-doubts-he-can-tilt.vmQtcb3DGqzRcOZKR1KlX.html)
“It’s been tough with this car. Two consecutive DNFs at the beginning dropped me out of the championship fight very early. Then I had a high peak with [being in contention for victory in] Canada and[winning at] Silverstone, then a low, then a high. But I’d much rather have the rollercoaster being as competitive as I am now than at the beginning.”
Formula One fans can be very unforgiving with their opinion. In the space of 6 months Scuderia Ferrari went from hero to zero (if the F1 memes are anything to go by) seeing how the strategists of the Prancing Horseracing outfit have now been characterised as clowns. However, Carlos Sainz was very clear in his comments of the team and clearly feels everything is being exaggerated.
“The team is performing at a very high level,” Sainz remarked. “We’re up against a very strong team like Red Bull which makes things complicated and we need to perform at a high level to match them. The team has progressed a lot these last two years. Strategy is always a talking point in Ferrari. I don’t know why everyone looks at our strategy and over-analyses what we should have done. I guess it’s part of being Ferrari. There is over-analysis of our radio too. All our radio messages get broadcast. Maybe this gives an impression of chaos.”
Chaos is certainly the choice of word many a fan of the team in red may find themselves using having seen their beloved Ferrari fall from the top spot of the F1 Constructors’ Championship. When things had been so promising in the first few races, Scuderia Ferrari is now 97 points behind Red Bull Racing and just 30 points ahead of 3rd placed Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Even so, Carlos Sainz clearly feels there has been no change from his approach.
"But my conversations on radio are always the same, it doesn’t matter if it’s a calm race or not, or a strategy-dependent race or not, we’re always having these conversations you’re hearing on the broadcast and I find them extremely important to take the right decisions. I’d much rather have them than not have them, trust me.”Sainz concluded on the matter.
Whether the decisions are in fact ‘the right decisions’ is a constant matter of discussion but Sainz’ teammate has also fallen victim to some questionable calls from his team. As ever, the first person you have to beat in Formula One is your teammate and Carlos Sainz commented that having Charles Leclerc alongside him is bringing out his best racing.
“Charles always produces extremely good laps through practice into qualifying, and this year also very good race pace,” Sainz stated. “He’s always a great reference to have in the team, a great guy to get on with, a guy that I really have learned a lot from in the past few years and a guy who I look forward to having as a team mate for the future, because we get on well and create a good partnership.
“We get to spend a lot of time together both at Maranello and at the track and normally have similar opinions about a lot of stuff. Apart from that, when it’s time to have fun, we can have fun, play some sports. Not everything is super serious and team-dependent. I hope we can keep it that way.”
Whether the relationship between the two drivers can stay that way will no doubt rely on the level of competitiveness between one another. Team boss Mattia Binotto fought hard to acquire the services of Carlos Sainz and his praise for Charles Leclerc is also well documented. For many, Scuderia Ferrari have the strongest on track driver pairing but the races in 2022 have not seen this come to the fore. For this reason, there are many fans in Formula One who are ready to etch the name of Max Verstappen on to the F1 Drivers’ Championship.
However, despite being P5 in the F1 Drivers’ Championship at present - and 102 points behind the reigning champion - Carlos Sainz still feels opportunities will come his way in the second part of the season to get back into the title fight as there are still nine races of the season remaining.
"Statistically, anything is possible. That’s why my intention hasn’t changed," Sainz announced. "I'm still going into every weekend trying to win the race. It’s a crazy year we are doing. If you see how consistently the top-two teams are on top, it should be an easy championship where one wins, one finishes second, but it’s not like that.
"There are a lot of points swings, which makes me believe everything is possible. It’s a very different year to anything before as the racing is better, more things happening in the race, and I’m going to believe that until it’s over."
"This year, my start of the season put me 50 points behind straight away and it’s difficult to make yourself look like a championship contender when you are minus-50. But if you look closely at the last few races, I am performing at a very similar level to the top guys. I feel like I’m there. It’s just that price I paid at the beginning of the season is costing me this year."
Even if victory was to follow at the Belgian Grand Prix, it would be hard to see how Sainz could be back in the drivers’ title fight. What it would do though is lay down a marker for 2023 that the Spaniard will be there to compete at the front and should he find consistency early on, he may very well stay there.