Formula 1

‘Red Bull’s intentions are clear’ – Leclerc on team orders

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Charles Leclerc says it is clear what Red Bull’s intentions are in terms of favouring Max Verstappen but he does not want to rely on Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz for support.

Leclerc lost the Formula 1 championship lead at the previous race as he retired with an engine failure while Verstappen won.

Verstappen’s path to victory was eased by Red Bull ordering Sergio Perez to move aside – having rejected Perez’s request to be let past at another stage of the race while on different strategies.

While that is unlikely to have changed the outcome of the race given Verstappen was on a faster, conventional three-stop, it confirmed an already implicit fact that just six races into the season that Verstappen is Red Bull’s priority and it will deploy team orders to help him.

Sergio Perez Max Verstappen F1 Red Bull

Ferrari has no such arrangement between Leclerc and Sainz, although Sainz is already 39 points adrift of Leclerc while Perez is only 25 behind Verstappen.

Asked in Monaco on Thursday if Ferrari would need to prioritise one driver in the face of Red Bull’s Verstappen preference, Leclerc said: “I will definitely not be the one taking those types of decisions so maybe you can ask it to Mattia [Binotto, team principal]!

“Red Bull made it clear what their intentions are and they did it very early in the season.

“But concerning us, I don’t know. I haven’t spoken about it with Mattia and I haven’t heard about anything of this for now.

“I think for Carlos it’s just a matter of time before he gets with us and that he gets more at ease with the car.

“But I don’t want to rely on that either. I just want to do the job in the car.

“If we are strong enough, we have already shown that we can win races anyway.

“And if we do a strong enough job, then I’m pretty sure that the chances are there anyway.”

Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz Ferrari F1

While Leclerc has scored four pole positions and won two races so far this season, Sainz has struggled more with the F1-75 and a change in technical regulations.

He has had multiple incidents and finished a muted fourth in Spain last weekend after spinning early on.

Leclerc was asked if he was worried that Sainz may not support him as effectively as Perez does Verstappen for Red Bull.

He said: “It doesn’t concern me because I know that Carlos will be back very, very quickly.

“He’s a very, very strong driver. He’s been struggling maybe a little bit more to adapt to this car. And it fit a little bit better my driving style maybe at the beginning.

“I’m pretty sure Carlos will be in the fight too, very, very soon.

“In the end, it’s up to me also to do the right job and to bring Ferrari on top anyway.”

Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz Ferrari F1

Leclerc and Sainz were closely matched in 2021, their first year as team-mates, but in 2022 a bigger gap emerged.

Sainz has tended to run Leclerc close over one lap but still trails him 6-0 in qualifying and is yet to beat Leclerc in a race both have finished.

That has left Leclerc as Ferrari’s obvious team leader in its quest to finally end a title drought stretching back to 2008, but Leclerc says he feels no more responsibility than previous years.

“Also last year and the year before it was also my responsibility or our responsibility to get back on top with such a big name like Ferrari,” he said.

“I don’t feel anything more, I just try and focus on the job and I am confident that whenever we do the perfect job on the weekend we have a shot for a win this year and this makes me happy.

“And obviously it makes me love the job that I do knowing that I have got a competitive car underneath me.

“But we just need to focus on ourselves and then I’m pretty sure that the results will come.”

Charles Leclerc Ferrari F1

Leclerc would likely have won the Spanish GP and extended his championship lead, rather than lost it, had he not suffer a power unit failure that caused terminal damage to the MGU-H and turbocharger.

Ferrari has not revealed the exact cause although its claim that there is no design fault indicates it could have been an installation or operational error.

Leclerc said in Monaco: “I think the team knows where it’s coming from. So this gives me the confidence that it won’t happen again.

“Whether it will or not, I don’t know – I hope not. The goal is obviously for it to not happen again.

“But the fact that we have identified the issue is already a step forward and I’m fully confident that the team is doing the right job for it to not happen again.”

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