Mattia Binotto believes Ferrari pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz is the “best line-up” on F1 grid, which made the difference in the constructors’ battle with McLaren.
Ferrari salvaged a remarkable third place in the constructors’ championship in 2021, after a disastrous 2020 campaign to sixth place, where the infamous settlement between the FIA and the team left the Scuderia hampered by a lack of horsepower and an ensuing increase in aerodynamic drag.
The 2020 season would be four-time champion Sebastian Vettel’s last with the team as Ferrari instead chose to recruit the services of then McLaren driver Sainz until at least the end of 2022, partnering Leclerc who’s contracted with the team until the end of 2024.
Given Leclerc’s extraordinary reputation he’d built in his short F1 career, many thought Sainz would be a clear number two driver to Ferrari’s chosen ‘golden boy’. However the Monegasque driver would lose out to the Spaniard in their first season.
Sainz executed a quiet but stellar run to fifth ahead of Leclerc in sixth. This was hugely important for the team in their fight with fellow historic celebrated team McLaren, topping off a brilliant run of races in the latter part of the season, beating Sainz’s former team even after they themselves secured the season’s only 1-2 finish in the Italian Grand Prix.
Team Principal Binotto says that Ferrari always knew Sainz was a strong and consistent driver, and acknowledged that one of the team’s targets at the moment is indeed the Constructors’ Championship. He hailed the grid’s ‘best pairing’ on the grid.
“I said at the start of the season that I have got the best line-up of the grid and I still believe that it’s the best line-up,” said Binotto to written media. “They are working together as we have seen with the consistency of the results. No doubt having two good drivers is important for the Constructors’ classification.
“I think that if you look at the number of points that Carlos is bringing, it’s a factor [in being ahead of McLaren], so it’s very important. I think by choosing him as a driver for Ferrari, we knew it, he has always been a very strong racer.
“He has always made a lot of points in the race and bringing a lot of points to the Constructors’, and having the Constructors’ Championship as one of our main targets, it was important for us. So certainly he’s doing very well, certainly that has been important.
“I don’t think it’s only that because we have been unlucky through this season in some circumstances, Monaco, Hungary, so we could even be a lot more ahead of that,” summed up Binotto. In Abu Dhabi with the majority of the eyes pointed at the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the front of the field to decide the championship, Sainz sneaked his Ferrari into third place for his sixth career podium.
Even though this was largely attributable to Sergio Perez’s late race retirement, it was Sainz’s exceptional racecraft and patience which put him in the position to capitalise. Binotto not only recognises Sainz’s naturally superlative race pace, but also his pre-season work ethic to get to grips with the car which he feels demonstrates the Spaniard’s additional strengths as a driver, where he also had to learn the power unit.
“Learning the power units is certainly one of the points that needs to be done and the energy management, the way the drivability of the engine, certainly gives a side that is difficult, but it is why we have tools like a simulator where you can train, and a lot has been done with Carlos just before the start of this season, making sure he knew all of the procedures of the engines, the way we are managing the energy and all the settings, the tunings,” explained Binotto.
Despite Sainz having to learn the technicalities and the intricacies of the Ferrari power unit, along with the characteristics of the car itself, Binotto had ample faith in him to perform at his absolute best right from the outset.
“But you need a good driver, and the better the driver the quicker the process, and I think that Carlos in that respect, he has been very strong. We knew he was a good driver and this season he’s simply demonstrating it as well,” stated Binotto.
Ferrari retain their line-up into the brand new era of technical regulations which will see drivers required to utilise every inch of their adaptability and work ethic from the off to get to grips with the new cars, something Binotto will definitely feel quietly confident about of his line-up.
The article was written by Danny Herbert
Here’s Ferrari’s junior drivers
Here’s Mattio Binotto on not developing car in 2021
Here’s Carlos Sainz on finding his groove
Here’s Charles Leclerc speaking on learning more of race management