May 15 (GMM) Opinions are split as to whether Carlos Sainz is an obvious ‘number 2’ driver for Charles Leclerc.
Some believe the fact that Sebastian Vettel is departing, and that Daniel Ricciardo was not the one to replace him, demonstrates that Ferrari wanted a driver for a supporting role alongside new clear number 1 Charles Leclerc.
Former F1 driver Roberto Merhi doesn’t think so.
“I am sure that he will be at Leclerc’s level from the first grand prix,” he told Marca.
“No teammate of Carlos Sainz has been able to beat him. If he coped with Verstappen, he will cope with Leclerc,” the former Marussia driver said.
However, another former driver, Mika Salo, thinks Leclerc is on “another level” compared to Spaniard Sainz, who arrives with experience at Toro Rosso, Renault and most recently McLaren.
“I don’t think he’s a challenger for him (Leclerc) at least right away. Sainz hasn’t been bad, but it does seem like Ferrari wanted a second driver for Leclerc,” he told MTV.
Team boss Mattia Binotto says he is happy with Ferrari’s pick, describing 25-year-old Sainz as “a strong, reliable driver who scores regularly”.
“He is very smart, young but already with five seasons of experience.”
Binotto continued: “We had time during this period to reflect, think and reach this conclusion. We are happy with our choice.
“In this period, the world has changed economically, technically and sportingly, and so we must look differently towards the future of Formula 1. There is a new challenge that we must all embrace and we believe we have identified the right person to complete our team,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“We want to open a new cycle with new challenges and obstacles. We are laying the foundation for the future.
“The road will be difficult, but the choice to focus on young people goes in this direction, not only for the drivers but for the mechanics.”
Marc Gene, a test driver and ambassador for Ferrari, insists that Sainz is not a number 2 driver.
“Carlos is a hard worker and not controversial – he fits in perfectly,” he told El Partidazo de Cope.
“He is not going to be the second driver, we are going to give him the same opportunities as Leclerc,” Gene added.
“We would not have signed Sainz if we did not think he could be world champion. It is undoubtedly a boost for Formula 1, also because I think Fernando Alonso is going to return.”