At Ferrari, Carlos Sainz can’t do it against Charles Leclerc and time is running out

Carlos Sainz will be particularly expected this weekend in Montmelo. By a Spanish crowd impatient to see the triumph of the first local driver since Fernando Alonso in 2013, and beyond that by a whole Scuderia Ferrari which has not won in Catalonia since that same year. Weaned from pole position and victory since the start of his career in Formula 1, is the 27-year-old from Madrid able to finally open his record, after 145 races in the world championship? Here is all the question.

The F1 75 is announced even in the ranks of Red Bull as the great favorite of the Grand Prix of Spain, the sixth round of the World Cup. It dominated the start of the season, but with Charles Leclerc in charge. It will receive technical developments – a new floor in particular – which should allow it to gain up to 0″3 or 0″4 everywhere on this rhythmic track, where the sequences of fast turns are repeated in its favor But that cannot be enough to make him the man to beat. Because since the start of the season, the son of the 1990 and 1992 world rally champion is clearly struggling against his Monegasque teammate, both in qualifying and in the race. And being objective, we do not see in view of what he has shown recently how he could take the upper hand on a regular basis, or without benefiting from an error by the driver from the Principality.

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The oversteer problem

He is a holder who does not win, he knows it, it weighs on him, and the expiry of his home test only reminds him of this observation. It’s true, the « rossa » was not in the game last year, but it’s been five times that it misses the boat this year. If we except the intermittents du spectacle Luca Badoer, Giancarlo Fisichella (2009), Mika Salo who was asked not to win (1999) or even Nicola Larini (1994), we have to go back to Ivan Capelli, in 1992, to find traces of the last regular Maranello driver who passed through the Scuderia without winning anything.

Why is Carlos Sainz there? Because his pilot’s DNA does not support oversteer, which on the contrary suits Charles Leclerc very well. To hear the Spaniard, everything was going for the best in the best of worlds last year, but his numerous driving mistakes had suggested another reality. Without paying cash like this year.
The driver at No. 55 is currently experiencing the same problem as Sebastian Vettel in 2019 and 2020, and which pushed the German towards the exit. He hates feeling the rear axle of his car on the verge of breaking grip, while the Monegasque appreciates driving on a razor’s edge. With anything else. No later than May 8 in Fiorano, aboard Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari 312 T4, forty years just after the death of the Canadian in Zolder, Belgium. « Charlot » spoke of a « very playful and oversteering » machine, « very fun to drive. »

Repeated errors

Mattia Binotto may have been excited by extending the Iberian’s contract for 2023 and 2024, on the strength of the double secured by the Spaniard at the start of the season in Bahrain, and his third place acquired in Saudi Arabia. Because he did not see his terrible rushing fault in the third round of the following Grand Prix, in Australia, as a warning signal. Qualified ninth because of a red flag and then a lack of time to prepare for his only decisive lap in Q3, he lacked lucidity in the wheels of outsider Mick Schumacher (Haas). By wanting to make people forget his disastrous departure (five places lost), he ruined everything. « While trying to regain positions, I made a mistake by attacking too early when my tires were probably not ready. I lacked calm »he confessed.

Two weeks later, in front of the tifosi at Imola, a wall stopped him dead in Q2. « It’s a bit of a weird mistake, to be honest.he pleaded. I don’t understand it very well because I wasn’t attacking hard, I wasn’t on the limit. I can only ask forgiveness. » A new obvious error repaired the next day, after a good comeback in the « sprint » race (P4 for 5 points). Before Daniel Ricciardo’s stroller (McLaren) and getting stuck in the gravel on Sunday, at the first chicane.

But the next stage, in Miami, was not very reassuring either because of a card from free practice 2, which forced « Charlot » to resume the test program, without being able to complete it. « Sorry guys. I don’t know what happened »said the number 2 of the Scuderia…

Leclerc as skilful as Schumacher

Beaten for the fifth time in as many qualifying sessions against its leader (only Norris and Bottas have such scores) following an error at the end of Florida’s Q3, Sainz saved a podium on Sunday thanks to Sergio Pérez’s engine problems (Red Bull). At least what was asked of him, without forgetting the rest. Which made him speak of a « correct result » and again mentioned his difficulties at the wheel of an F1 75 which he admits not understanding. « With the heat, the car was moving, sliding a lot and we got the result we deserve. We’ll have to try to build on that… »he summarized.

Exceeded in pure speed, unable to block Max Verstappen (Red Bull) at the start, Carlos Sainz is definitely not doing as well as Charles Leclerc at the wheel of the F1 75, but certain details explain it according to Shinji Nakano. « Leclerc and Sainz use different techniques to stabilize their car in slow cornersexplains the former Formula 1 driver to the site, from which took up the remarks. Leclerc combines braking and acceleration. It can sometimes give something bad. with this technique, you can press the accelerator pedal when the car becomes a little ‘nervous’. It’s not good for gas mileage or brakes, but it can be useful in certain situations. »

In other words, Charles Leclerc has taken on this driving tic that once allowed Michael Schumacher to stabilize his single-seater aerodynamically in critical braking phases.

« On the other hand, Sainz is more traditionalobserves Shinji Nakano. He does not use his brake and his accelerator at the same time. Leclerc’s technique is advantageous on circuits where the Ferrari is not fast in the corners., he adds. But this will not be the case in Montmelo. A chance for Sainz?

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