Ferrari: who is il numero uno?

From a strategic point of view, all Formula 1 teams have to decide on the race weekend, after the first practice sessions and results, which driver they want to prioritise in the race in order to get the best possible result.

At Mercedes in particular, Valterri Bottas has been given the role of ‘wingman’ to support seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to the best of his abilities. Toto Wolff went so far as to call Bottas a “sensational wingman” after the race in Hungary 2018.

But even in other teams that are not fighting for the world championship, there are often team orders to change the positioning of the drivers or pit calls.

An example of this is the race in Zandvoort this year, where Daniel Ricciardo had to give up his position for teammate Lando Norris, so that Norris could at least get a point for himself.

Many people automatically talk about a ‘first’ and ‘second’ driver as a result, although this expression is very problematic. Ferrari is the best example for this.

Charles Leclerc has already been with the traditional team since 2019. He has signed the longest contract in Ferrari’s history so far, and he is staying with them until at least 2024. After putting down only one season with the junior team Alfa Romeo, Ferrari had high hopes for the Monegasque.

His results in the junior classes were impressive: In Formula 2, he won the title in 2017 with 282 points and six victories.

His results in Formula 1 also speak for themselves: in his rookie season at Alfa Romeo, he finished 13th, and in his first season at Ferrari, he finished fourth in the drivers’ standings. In the current season, he is in 6th place.

While Sebastian Vettel was his teammate at Ferrari, there were minor and also major misunderstandings between the two, which led to well-known crashes such as the one in São Paulo 2019. Both clearly wanted to show what they could deliver in the Ferrari.

Things seem to be different with his new teammate, Carlos Sainz. The two get on well both off and on track and communicate clearly with each other.

After Sainz switched from McLaren to Ferrari, everyone assumed there would be initial difficulties regarding the change: new car, different engine and other peculiarities of the SF21 could have made it difficult for him to get used to.

Other drivers, such as Sebastian Vettel, who switched to Aston Martin, or Daniel Ricciardo, who took over Sainz’ seat at McLaren, clearly seemed to struggle more with the new challenge.

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Sainz, however, quickly adapted to the car, and the team, and produced good results in the Ferrari, in which he only went home without points twice.

If you only look at the results of the two Ferrari drivers, Charles Leclerc is 8.5 points ahead of Carlos Sainz with 148 points. Both are currently in 5th and 6th place in the drivers’ standings. However, if you take a closer look at the data of the two drivers, both positive and negative aspects stand out.

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On the one hand, Leclerc has already achieved pole twice in qualifying. In Monaco and Azerbaijan, he had set the fastest laps. Nevertheless, after his accident in Monaco, he unfortunately could not start the race because his accident in Q3 led to a cracked driveshaft hub, which couldn’t be replaced.

Sainz, on the other hand, has never been the fastest in qualifying. His best starting position was P2 in Sochi. So, this point goes to Leclerc.

The worst race results for Sainz are two P11s in Portugal and France, where he finished just outside the points. Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, apart from the DNS in Monaco and a DNF in Hungary through no fault of his own, recorded his worst result in P16 in France.

The best finish for the Monegasque was a second place at Silverstone, which, however, also includes his only podium of the season so far. On Sainz’ side, there have been three podiums: Monaco, Hungary and Russia, of which Monaco includes his best race finish: P2. Third place in Brazil in the sprint race can also be perceived as a podium – after all, there were wreaths.

Taking both drivers’ results so far, Leclerc (without DNS/DNF) places 6.29th on average (7.74th with both DNS/DNF calculated as P20). Sainz, on the downside, has reached the finish in every race so far and thus occupies 6.57th place on average.

On the accident side, both drivers do not differ much: on some weekends, Carlos Sainz spun his Ferrari or even put it into the wall, especially in the practice sessions, but he was spared major accidents. Charles Leclerc has also come through the season so far without any major damage, even though his accident in Q3 in Monaco resulted in both pole and DNS.

Apart from the difference of less than 10 points, both drivers seem to have found equal footing. Both had peaks, but also low points this season. In the last races, however, the Ferrari team has risen to the top.

After being in P4 in the constructors’ championship for a while, they were able to extend their lead over McLaren. After the successful race in São Paulo, where Sainz finished in P6 and Leclerc in P5, they now have 31.5 points more than McLaren.

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One thing is clear: even though Leclerc was long seen as Ferrari’s hope, Sainz is doing an outstandingly good job. Both are team players and only want the best for the team, which also became clear after the last race.

Sainz was disappointed after he dropped back due to the contact with Norris in lap 1, but he still found positive words:

“First of all the points that we were able to collect as a team to extend the lead over McLaren and secondly the good feeling with the car, the tyre management and the strong pace since Friday. It’s just frustrating that I haven’t made the most of the last two races after eventful starts, but we’ll keep pushing”

We will see in the next few weeks whether the fight for third place in the constructors’ championship is over – but Ferrari’s odds are better than they have been for a long time.

Feature Image credit: Dan Istitene via Getty Images

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