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Formula 1

'Complains too much' - biggest Leclerc/Sainz dispute yet explained

by Josh Suttill
5 min read

Charles Leclerc feels Carlos Sainz disobeyed a pre-race order at the Spanish Grand Prix, a suggestion that prompted his Ferrari Formula 1 team-mate Sainz to say "too many times he complains after the race about something".

The two have enjoyed a reasonably harmonious relationship during their four seasons as Ferrari team-mates but things were arguably tenser than ever in the aftermath of the Barcelona race.

Leclerc and Sainz maintained their fifth and sixth places at the start of the grand prix but Sainz soon set his sights on Leclerc and ended up harrying his SF-24 right around the outside of Leclerc's at Turn 1.

Sainz inched ahead but was forced to take to the run-off and negotiate the mandatory rejoin bollards. That still earned him fifth place and a brief message from race control 'noting' the incident quickly turned to 'no further investigation'.

That prompted immediate ire from Leclerc over the team radio and his anger with Sainz had not cooled by the time he faced the media.

'We had a clear strategy at the beginning of the race, with the team, to both save tyres to attack later on," explained eventual fifth-place finisher Leclerc.

"Carlos on that lap, he didn't do any saving in Turn 14 and of course had an opportunity to overtake in Turn 1. Which is a bit of a shame because we lost time between us, I damaged my front wing because of Carlos making the turn, not seeing that I was on the inside. And that made our race more difficult.

"But it wouldn't have changed significantly the end result."

When asked if he expected Sainz to leave more room, Leclerc said: "Yeah, but again I didn't understand the point of doing that when it was clearly stated before the race that we had to save in this part of the race.

"It's a bit unnecessary, but I also understand that it's his home race, and it's also an important moment of his career, so I guess he wanted to do something a bit spectacular.

"But I probably wasn't the right person to do that with."

That "important moment' refers to this being the crunch time for Sainz's future beyond 2025 as he is being replaced at Ferrari by Lewis Hamilton.

Leclerc told Sky Sports F1 "I think he'll [Sainz] see the image and understand I was on the inside and he couldn't turn in at that point".

But when Sky put that to Sainz, he was less than impressed.

"It's too many times he complains after the race about something," said Sainz, who completed a longer final stint on hards and was sixth.

"I was on the attack. We were on a new soft, Mercedes was on a used soft. We had to go on the attack on the first laps when you have a new tyre and pass them. Like we said even before the race.

"I passed Charles because...I don't know if he did a mistake or was just managing a bit too much. Then I went on and nearly passed Lewis, and I undercut Lewis, nearly passed Russell at pitstops.

"I was trying to try what I have to as a driver, what is required for me to do as a driver. He had to manage more, in the end for him it kind of paid because he beat me at the end with a soft-mediium-soft [tyre strategy].

"I elected to be aggressive, soft-medium-hard, and it didn't pay off. Is what it is."

Leclerc's frustration was also put to Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur, who doubted Leclerc and Sainz's duel was massively costly, and urged caution when reading too much into the drivers' immediate comments.

"I think you can find 10 examples of 10 circumstances in the race where we missed half a second," Vasseur said.

"After, Carlos let him go [Sainz obeyed a team order to let Leclerc past into a net fifth place] very easily later on. We missed a couple of tenths during two or three laps. Let us discuss, and [let's] not draw conclusions after the first comments of the driver when he's jumped out of the car."

It's tricky not to draw conclusions though when Leclerc and Sainz's comments stand out in so many years of civil fighting for podiums and the occasional victory - think how calmly Leclerc reacted to Sainz's brutally tough defence of third at Monza last year.

Sainz wouldn't refer to other times Leclerc has complained after the race if there wasn't at least an element of lingering frustration there.

And the fact Sainz is been let go by the team despite claiming two of its last three wins, the looming self-imposed crunch time to decide his future, and Ferrari's drop-off in form over the last two weekends is only going to add to the frustration.

Sainz's frustration with Hamilton move

Clashing with his team-mate wasn't Sainz's only incident during his run to sixth.

Sainz said Hamilton "ran me off the track" when the Mercedes reversed the win of Sainz's earlier undercut at Turn 1.

"I was half a car length ahead and normally the rule says that if you're ahead around the outside, they need to give you space if you have half a car ahead," Sainz explained.

"That's normally what stewards have ruled this year, so I was trying to benefit from that rule because that's how they've ruled up until now.

"I'm not saying he was racing hard or not hard, just trying to apply the rule that the stewards have applied all season."

Much like with the Leclerc/Sainz incident, the stewards quickly decided to take no further action.

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