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Is there a number one driver at Ferrari? Sainz breaks the silence

Written by Sofia Costantino, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Image Credits - Motorsport Images

Carlos Sainz was recently interviewed at a relaxed event organised by Estrella Galicia 0,0 in Madrid, his hometown. Sainz started the season with high expectations of Scuderia Ferrari's chances, and to make further progress on track, and regularly challenge for victory in the ultra-competitive Formula 1 scene.

However, before reaching the halfway point of the championship, it became clear that the most important goal would be to break the hegemony of the championship leader, to give the tifosi something to cheer about, and be proud of the team’s improvement. In his determination to improve, Sainz forbade himself to give up, and ground it out. The Spaniard reaped the rewards of his hard work by finishing third in the Italian GP, a foreboding podium followed by his first win of the year at Singapore. Sitting fifth in the championship standings right now with 150 points, Carlos shared with the press his thoughts on the current season, as well as his immediate goals.

Image Credits - Ferrari

During the first minutes of the interview, the reporter asked Sainz about the intense season, and his perspective on how it has played out. The exact question was: How do you see the evolution in such an intense season, full of great moments, and some others that help to keep learning?

To which he answered “I think it's been a season from less to more and maybe now we are at our best moment. There are six races left and i obviously want them to go well, but we have to keep trying to improve, try to get more podiums and see where all this takes us at the end of the season.”

The reporter later touched upon his Singapore special: “ Where did you and your team find the key points for winning in Singapore?”

“First of all there is a track factor, which is a circuit where the car works well. Honestly, we didn’t make any improvements to Singapore or Monza; it was simply a car and a set-up that adapted well to those circuits and that’s how Formula 1 works. But then you also have to know how to take advantage of the opportunities and in Singapore we managed to do it in order to stand at a high level both in terms of driving and strategy. I am comforted to see that, when the opportunities come, we take them, and also that Ferrari will be there when the opportunities come.”

Image Credits - Formula One

To this response, the media asked Sainz about the goals he would fight for, and if we see him on the top of the rostrum again this season.

And he confidently answered “ I think there is a clear goal at this moment, which is trying to finish second in the Constructors World Championship to try to beat Mercedes, as it is about 20 points ahead at the moment. On a personal level, I’m focused on trying to get the best out of the car, which is what I have been doing these races, o i will make sure that,as a driver, I can’t do any more. In some races that will be good enough to finish sixth and in some others it will be good enough to try to get a podium, and that has to be my goal. To be back on the top of the podium again will depend a lot on the tracks we race at and how well the car may adapt to them. In formula 1 There are no Miracles. In Singapore we won because Ferrari was better than it was at Zandvoort or Suzuka, otherwise it’s impossible to win. I hope we'll race at some track similar to Singapore and maybe we’ll have the chance. If it comes, you can be sure I'll be there to take it.”

Sainz responded rather angrily to yet another press question regarding the alleged driver hierarchy within the Scuderia Ferrari team. He affirmed that both his and Charles Leclerc’s priority is to win for the Scuderia, not to establish a number one or number two within the team. The Spaniard has shown this year that he can keep up with his teammate, and in some cases, even outpace him, as demonstrated by his victory around Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit.

Sainz reiterated to the press: There are no hierarchies within the Ferrari team

“Do you believe that Charles and I are fighting to be the number one (within the team)?” Carlos Sainz thundered in the press conference organized by Estrella Galicia, his longtime sponsor. “The press is responsible for all of this, because in our contracts and in our driving styles, it is clear that the number one priority is Ferrari. Ferrari comes first, everything else comes after.” – he pointed out.

“The priority is for Ferrari to win. It has always been this way, and always will be. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes behind, sometimes you help your teammate, and sometimes he helps you. As much as people want to find a first and second driver, Charles and I have never had any issues. We have always worked perfectly together.”

The 2023 Formula One season for the Prancing Horse will likely be remembered more for the off-track media controversies, than for the car’s performance.

Several times we’ve seen skirmishes between the two Ferrari drivers, leading to sharp comments from the Spanish press, which has staunchly defended Sainz and disparaged Charles Leclerc’s performances. Being a Ferrari driver, after all, entails this type of pressure, in addition to shouldering the championship expectations of an entire nation.

“This is the beauty of Ferrari. It’s an advantage that, however, is seen as a disadvantage from the outside,” Carlos adds. “Does this affect us? I don’t know, certainly, it doesn’t help. Fans who always try to find the problem or articles that put pressure regarding the first and second driver certainly don’t help.” – he continued – “We are quite accustomed to all of this, and we know how to handle such situations well. But those who care about Ferrari shouldn’t spread and encourage such rumors. First of all, because they don’t represent the truth, and second, because they don’t help.”

Image Credits - Formula One

Thus, Sainz tries to silence any attempts to sow discord between him and Charles Leclerc once and for all, urging everyone to pull in the same direction, and assist Ferrari in its process of returning to success. The Scuderia’s goal in a decidedly challenging season remains to surpass Mercedes for second in the 2023 Formula 1 constructors’ championship, with six races remaining until the end the 2023 campaign.

These declarations pretty much shut down any rumors and gossip which denote a number one driver, when in reality both of them are two of the most talented on the grid.

About the goal for the end of the season.

I think finishing second in the World Constructors' Championship is the main goal. I think it would be a good motivational kick for me before the start of next year's season. On a personal level, just get positive results at the moment I'm in, try to make the most of the car and above all, if there's an opportunity to do some podium or get some victory, be able to do it. We don't know if it's coming or not, or even if it might, to be honest.

About the Ferrari SF23 this season

This year's Ferrari is not a car I love. It would change a lot of things. I'm not comfortable just like I wasn't comfortable last year. It's time to adapt. Now I've learned how to adapt to the driving, to the style, to how to find the laps that will make me go fast, which in the end is what all drivers want. It is a fact that today's cars are difficult to drive.

Image Credits - Getty Images

About Red Bull's dominance and possible improvements for 2024.

Under the current regulations, they are unbeatable. The main advantage of Red Bull is that they have margin. In Singapore it was the only circuit where they didn't have that margin and that's where we can take advantage of it. Also in Monza. I mean, I'm always optimistic before the start of the season, but I was also optimistic last summer and look, we stumbled. You have to be optimistic. It's best to think that we'll try again next year. I'd love to think of a fight for the World Cup between five teams. Also cars that are easier to overtake. We're talking about narrower cars, for example.

When asked what Ferrari is missing.

We know what's missing. We have been able to understand and identify it, but it is another thing that we have the capacity to react to solve it. Since these races all the teams forget about this year's car and focus on next year's. Next year's car is already decided, it's in the wind tunnel trying to improve on details. Time will tell.

Image Credits - Getty Images

Asked if Formula One is boring.

Formula 1 has always been able to survive with very boring World Championship fights. There have always been dominating teams. It's a fact. As an amateur I do miss Worlds like the ones of 2007 or like the one of 2021, but there is more to the fights of the World Cup. Singapore or Monza have been good examples. For the amateur? For me, F1 is the most fun sport to watch on TV, really. It's very different from everything else, and I say this in a very subjective way, but it's true that the competition has always managed to survive even without a lot of fighting in front.

If Sainz he thinks he's undervalued.

I feel valued, honestly. I don't know why you say that in the press. I'm in Ferrari, so if I'm in the greatest team in history, it's because someone valued me. The people I care about, the people who are in F1, the rest of the drivers, I think they value me as they should.


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