2023: Charles Leclerc vs. Carlos Sainz
The last two weekends at Zandvoort and Monza have largely demonstrated one of the performance differences between Ferrari’s two drivers emerging in this championship: while Charles Leclerc often showcased his strong qualifying pace, even besting Carlos Sainz in several cases (Monza not included, where the Spaniard even claimed pole), the situation reversed during the races. In the Netherlands, for example, the Monegasque concluded his fourth race of the season without any points, all while the Spaniard finished in 5th place while fending off Lewis Hamilton’s late-race attacks. Carlos Sainz then improved his performance with a podium finish at the Temple of Speed, again resisting Charles Leclerc‘s high-pressure passing attempts in the final laps.
Anticipation for Marina Bay
These results have additionally rewarded Sainz Jr. in the World Championship standings, as the #55 currently occupies fifth place just ahead of Charles Leclerc, lagging by six points awaiting the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix. An event that, following the high expectations of the Ferrari faithful for its two drivers in the home weekend, could present the same problems faced by the Scuderia in most of this season’s races, given the track characteristics that don’t align with those of the SF-23. For this reason, there’s even more pressure on Charles Leclerc to stand out and attempt to overtake his teammate, in a situation that seems light-years away from the victory achieved by #16 at Monza in 2019, where he thrilled the spectators after an intense battle with Hamilton. A performance that, even today, remains Charles Leclerc’s only victory at Monza, on par with Emerson Fittipaldi, a two-time world champion and part of this Grand Prix’s history due to his triumph in 1972.
The Brazilian has emphasized the delicate moment that Charles Leclerc is going through, generally struggling more in races compared to the Spaniard: “I see that Leclerc is under more pressure than Sainz,” he explained in a recent interview, “and this tension comes from within. Charles wants to achieve certain results that aren’t coming. Sainz seems to be more consistent when it comes to finishing races compared to Leclerc. When you have a teammate with the same car, it starts to create some pressure, and if you’re not mentally strong, it will make things difficult. In general, when a driver starts putting too much pressure on himself, it’s the worst thing he can do. We know Charles has talent, but in my opinion, he needs to be more relaxed: if he manages to make things easier, he will do better and make fewer mistakes.”
The Pros and Cons of Monza
For the Brazilian, therefore, managing pressure plays an important role, both concerning the drivers and the entire Ferrari team, which left Monza with a positive result after an eagerly anticipated weekend following the unsatisfactory Zandvoort outing: “Historically, when Ferrari goes to Monza, there’s tremendous pressure,” he added, “the entire country watches the drivers, as well as Fred Vasseur, all team members, and every pit stop. Ferrari has always performed well at Monza, and this was the case even in my time.” – he concluded.