With the Maranello-based outfit having finished third this season behind Mercedes and Red Bull, it hopes that the early development switch it made to its 2022 car will pay dividends in helping it close up the gap.
With one of the most closely matched driver pairings in F1, Ferrari is well aware that if its duo take points off each other then it could be a compromise if it finds itself in a tight championship battle.
However, team principal Mattia Binotto is clear that Sainz and Leclerc will start on an equal footing – and that it will be results on track that will ultimately decide if there comes a point where they have to favour one over the other.
“In terms of drivers, as we have often said, I think it is the track that will dictate it,” he said.
“The priority is always the team, but no doubt, if they can compete for an important position in the championship, it will be the track that will tell who’s ahead.
“And sometimes, I think it’s not only about driver talent or driver capacity. A driver can be a lot unfortunate, and have damage, reliability issues, or crashes.
“So I don’t think that we need at this stage, and certainly we will not have a policy, of number one or number two. We will simply discuss it based on positions on track whenever it will be time.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21, battles with Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Sainz enjoyed an impressive first campaign for Ferrari in 2021, finishing 5.5 points and two positions ahead of Leclerc.
However, Binotto doesn’t think there is any reason to feel that Leclerc under-performed this year, as he feels the Monegasque driver was unlucky at times.
“For Charles, I have to say that I’m very happy to see the progress he has made this season,” he said.
“I think he’s has always been somehow very fast in qualifying, even in the last part of the season where maybe Carlos was challenging him a bit more.
“I think we should not forget that in the season, there are a couple of examples, which is Monaco and Budapest, where he didn’t score. I think he has been unlucky as a driver in those occasions.
“Without those, and it’s difficult to say where he would have finished, but maybe at least 40 points is missing from his classification. So without that, again, I think he would have been a lot further ahead in the championship.
“So that’s why again I can only judge very positively his season. He has learned, furthermore, how to manage the tyres, how to manage the race situations and the race pace. So I am quite pleased on the progress he has made.”