Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Simran Kanthi
The current Ferrari driver line-up of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the youngest pairing in over 50 years at the time of signing the latter, has been touted as one of the best driver line-ups on the grid. They are two young drivers heading into the peaks of their careers and hungry to achieve success. Many looked at the driver line-up and stated it to be one to watch out for in the future.
While it is evident that the 2022 Formula One season hasn't gone to plan for Ferrari, the drivers' consistency coupled with their ability to fight back to achieve strong finishes have been a shining light for the team. It has given the fans hope that the drivers are capable of bringing the silverware back to Maranello, provided Ferrari can give them a car capable of doing so along with a stronger strategy team. What are the skill sets of these drivers and how do they complement each other in order to achieve big things for the team in the future?
First up, they form a very stable line-up for the Italian outfit. Leclerc has signed a contract until 2024 with Ferrari and will look to continue with the team long into the future. Sainz signed a new contract with the team until the end of 2024, earlier in the season. This gives both drivers the motivation to drive at their full potential without worrying about their future in the sport. Another point to take note of is their current age; Leclerc will turn 25 in October 2022, and Sainz turned 28 in early September. They are still young and moving into the peaks of their careers, and are highly motivated individuals, pushing hard to win championships for the team.
The drivers also have a strong camaraderie which is evidenced in their C² (C-squared) challenges, where they are seen joking around and enjoying each other's company. Furthermore, the pair have been very friendly on track, keeping the intra-team battles to a minimum and looking to achieve the best result for the team. Ferrari has also taken the right move by not giving one driver the tag of "Second Driver" and prioritising either driver. This has been evident from the words of Laurent Mekies, Sporting Director of Scuderia Ferrari, when asked about this matter by F1.com ahead of the summer break, "We target to have the best result for the team; Ferrari comes first. And then of course there will be a point where we will need to focus more on a driver compared to the other one if the championship position is required. So, it does not mean waiting for the mathematical difference, but it means being at the point of the season where you think it is the right thing to do so."
Now, let us move to the main point of this article, the drivers themselves. Charles Leclerc has been an integral member of the team and the poster boy of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) for a significant duration now. He is to Ferrari what Max Verstappen is to Red Bull; the golden boy of the team, oozing talent and standing as the team's best shot at winning a championship in the future. Of course, while the Dutch driver is the reigning World Champion and is set to wrap up another title in a couple of races, Leclerc is rapidly gaining experience battling at the front of the field and will look to match Verstappen's accolades very soon. He has shown tremendous pace in the qualifying sessions right from his first year at Ferrari, with seven pole positions to his name in 2019. The young Monegasque has taken eight pole positions in 2022, with his standout pole-position laps at Monaco, Monza, Spain, and Baku. While he has won only three races this season, one must take into account that most of these races saw him fall foul to Ferrari's reliability issues and strategy blunders, his only mistakes coming in France and Imola. Nonetheless, this has still been an impressive season for a driver who has had very little experience of battling at the head of the field in Formula One.
Another point to be noted is his ability to soak up the pressure during tense moments. He soaked up immense pressure from Lewis Hamilton to take two important victories at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza in 2019, his first season at Ferrari. In the dying stages of this season's Austrian Grand Prix, Leclerc kept a charging Max Verstappen at bay, despite facing an issue with his throttle being stuck in the corners to take his third win of the season. While he has been quick to own up to his mistakes, most notably at the French GP, one will hope to see him iron out his mistakes and strengthen his championship challenge in the seasons to come.
Let's move to the other half of the driver line-up: Carlos Sainz. Ferrari is the fourth team the Spaniard has driven for in Formula One. He has had to work his way up to a seat with the Scuderia, having to put in standout performances for the midfield teams to gain the attention of the F1 Paddock. Sainz's excellent stint as a McLaren driver in 2019 and 2020, which saw him take two podiums and multiple points finishes, paved the way for his move to the Scuderia. He is a great driver on rainy days, his first pole position coming in a rain-affected qualifying session at Silverstone, earlier this season. He took his first win the following day in an action-packed race. While Sainz might not be the out-and-out quickest driver during a race, his consistency has made up for it on more than one occasion. The 2021 season was one such instance when Sainz's amazing consistency saw him finish fifth, and best of the rest in the standings. This is his first season driving a car capable of contending for podiums and victories regularly, and the Spaniard has slowly got to grips with his machinery.
Furthermore, Sainz has proven to be very street-smart, by making his own strategy calls at Monaco, British, and French Grands Prix. He has regularly stated to the pit wall regarding his choice of tyre for a particular stint of a race. Sainz has been steadily gaining confidence in the Ferrari F1-75 and stated after the race at Monza that he had reached a new level of confidence in the car, following a charge up the grid from 18th to finish 4th. He has been unlucky to miss out on many high points scores throughout the season, and will be looking to end the season on a strong note with the Scuderia.
Ferrari have had many veterans drive for them in the past, with the likes of Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, and Sebastian Vettel donning the famous Rosso Corsa and winning races for the team. However, none of the drivers have been able to bring back the silverware to Maranello during their stints at Ferrari, either due to the car not having the pace to match their rivals or the drivers and the team making costly mistakes during the course of a season. While the current line-up may not have a veteran driver with championships to his name, it still boasts of a highly talented duo with varied skill sets and represents the best chance of bringing back the elusive championship trophies to Maranello in the future.