British former racing driver from England, Damon Hill, who won the Formula 1 title back in 1996, shared his thoughts on Scuderia Ferrari’s line-up and pointed out that the Maranello team should admit that “Charles Leclerc in sheer pace is the lead guy” to have a better chance of defeating Max Verstappen and Red Bull.
Italian-American industrialist John Elkann, the Ferrari president, was recently interviewed by the Italian media and said he was confident the Maranello team would be able to win both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ titles at least one time by 2026, adding “that Charles Leclerc is in pole position”.
The Italian media then of course immediately pointed out to Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto the statements made by John Elkann regarding Charles Leclerc being their number one driver, and replied that he did “not mean that”.
Mattia Binotto added: “I think it’s fair, as a team, to give them equal chance, certainly at the start of the season and through the season.”
The current Ferrari team principal confirmed from the start of the season that both drivers have the same status and has backed up his words, as could be seen in the British Grand Prix, when Ferrari decided for a late tyre change only for Carlos Sainz, which helped him secure the race win at the expense of his Maranello teammate. At the same time, the Spanish driver was allowed to fight his team-mate at the Austrian GP sprint race.
However, fans remember that the internal duel between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz eventually meant Max Verstappen was able to build a gap in the front and go on to win the Sprint Race at the Red Bull Ring.
Formula 1 pundit Tom Clarkson feels for Carlos Sainz, adding it was “it was very conspicuous the omission of Carlos Sainz from John Elkann”.
Former F1 champion Damon Hill, however, thinks the comments made by John Elkann were “tough but fair”.
“The fact of the matter is Charles Leclerc in sheer pace is the lead guy, and Carlos has done a great job, but he still hasn’t dominated Charles has he?” he said on the recent episode of the F1 Nation podcast. “I mean it’s a bit like Sergio. They’re a very good team, the pair of them. Carlos was actually pretty quick at Monza I thought but he’s going to have to go up another level to put Charles in the shade. And so that’s a fair point. If you’re going up into battle against Max Verstappen and Red Bull, you’ve got to put your best guys forward, you’re not going to not hurt people’s feelings because there isn’t time for that in Formula 1. I think it was tough but fair, and I think it was at the right time without putting masses of pressure on Ferrari, they already had enough. Being on pole position with Charles it could only go horribly wrong couldn’t it? Just felt that horrible feeling about it.” – the former Williams driver explained.
Regardless of driver status, Ferrari’s current campaign was a disappointing one, as the Maranello team was not able to build on the strong start and has already lost the championship battle against Red Bull and Max Verstappen, having to settle only for a duel with Mercedes for second place in the standings:
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“I mean when Michael [Schumacher] was winning. I used to say you could bet your house on him winning. You would go into race going this team, the way they operate, where he drives, you’d bet your house on. You wouldn’t do that right now with Ferrari.” – Damon Hill concluded.
Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc is P2 in the Drivers’ Championship with 219 points, while his Maranello teammate Carlos Sainz is 32 points behind.