If you look in any well-respected and valued dictionary the word ‘undroppable’ will not feature, but it has become a term widely used within the sporting community.
To put it simply, it refers to a sportsperson who is performing so well that there is no need for them to be replaced.
It’s arguably a word that is thrown around far too much, but then again, which sporting cliches aren’t?
But in the case of Carlos Sainz, he’s fulfilled the criteria and can certainly be considered as undroppable by Ferrari.
When the Scuderia nabbed Sainz from McLaren after last season, it was widely believed he would be a placeholder until Mick Schumacher had completed his development at Haas.
The Spaniard was signed on a two-year contract, giving enough time for Schumacher to learn his craft and later partner Ferrari’s golden boy Charles Leclerc.
In many ways, it made perfect sense.
Sainz is a very consistent, popular, quick – and most importantly, a safe pair of hands.
Ferrari trusted that he could do a good job and be the perfect understudy to Leclerc during his two-year stay at the same.
But in this movie, Sainz has proven himself to be more than just a swing, in fact, more than just a supporting role – he’s firmly a co-star, whose performance has been very noteworthy.
So far, Sainz is actually beating Leclerc in the drivers’ standings.
Yes, the Monegasque did get punted by Lance Stroll in Hungary and did miss out on what would likely have been a win in Monaco had he not badly damaged his Ferrari in qualifying.
But nothing should be taken away from Sainz – he’s been excellent.
He’s taken two podiums already in what is a very young Ferrari career at Monaco and Hungary, leads Leclerc by three points in the standings and is an impressive sixth in the championship.
Compared to the other drivers who moved teams this season, Sainz has fared the best.
Sergio Perez has been inconsistent at Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo has struggled at McLaren.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel has seemed to find his feet at the Silverstone team after a tricky start to the season and was unlucky not to score his second podium of the season in Budapest, being disqualified after the race due to a fuel sampling issue.
But the difference between the German and Sainz? Ferrari’s new recruit hit the ground running.
A respectable points finish in Bahrain was backed up by a fifth place at Imola – which was admittedly slightly fortuitous.
Sainz has only missed out on points twice this season, after a tricky race in Portugal and when Ferrari appeared to capitulate in France.
Other than these anomalies, the former Toro Rosso driver has done what he’s best at, performing consistently.
Has Sainz been perfect? Of course not.
His qualifying has been decent, but he’s more often than not beaten by Leclerc – who has scored two poles – and occasionally fails to make it into Q3.
A few mistakes have also been made, including his crash during qualifying at the Hungaroring and his errors in Baku and Imola.
But he’s a driver at a completely new team in a different country and has a vastly different way of working – he’s not going to be exceptional all the time.
So far, however, he has definitely justified Ferrari’s decision to sign him.
On race pace, the 26-year-old has proved himself as more than a match for Leclerc – and that gives Ferrari a problem.
Sainz was only meant to warm the seat for Schumacher, but his performances in the first half of 2021 make him ‘undroppable’ – and he’s only going to get better.
If he can maintain his level of performance for the rest of his contract, then it’s hard to see why he would be moved on from Maranello.
Not only have Sainz’s performances benefitted the team, but they also push Leclerc to new levels and that creates a perfect environment for Ferrari – especially if both are willing to play the team game, which they have been so far.
Ferrari is a team with big ambitions, they’ve won the most world titles in history and long to return to the top.
In Sainz and Leclerc they have the perfect combination to achieve that, which is bad news for Schumacher and Ferrari’s various other young drivers from their talent pool.
Sainz has disrupted the whole plan and firmly asserted himself as a man who could be wearing red for a long time.
Team boss Mattia Binotto recently said he believes Ferrari have the best lineup on the grid, and it’s difficult to argue against him.
Leclerc’s raw pace and Sainz’s intelligence and racecraft have created an excellent balance; Ferrari is the only team where you could definitively argue that both drivers have performed well so far this year.
Come the end of 2022, Binotto could have a serious headache – but one he will enjoy.
Image credits: f1.com
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