Is Sainz slipping into Ferrari number two role this season?
Apr.13 - Charles Leclerc is on the cusp of being Ferrari's clear 'number 1' pick for the 2022 drivers' title.
The world championship leader is already 38 points ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz, who had a dire weekend in Melbourne but has struggled elsewhere so far this year.
"It's surprising that Sainz made so many mistakes," former F1 driver Timo Glock told Sky Deutschland.
"He's already well behind his teammate. For that reason, Ferrari will prioritise Leclerc relatively early in certain situations in order to take every points in the championship fight.
"Last year we saw very well how every point counts," the German added.
Another former driver, Christian Klien, told Servus TV: "Carlos Sainz is good too.
"But now that the car is good enough to win, Leclerc's exceptional talent is showing. Verstappen also has this characteristic. I think they're on a similar level," said the Austrian.
Even the partisan Italian media, who are endorsing a contract extension for Sainz, admit that Melbourne sealed Sainz's 'number 2' fate for 2022.
"The unfortunate and nervous Sainz cannot compare with Leclerc and has been forced to be the running mate of the star-gazing Charles," Giorgio Terruzzi wrote in Corriere della Sera.
"The fact that Sainz now demands equal treatment with Leclerc almost seems inappropriate," he added.
However, team boss Mattia Binotto backs Sainz to bounce back from a difficult weekend in Australia - and rejects any suggestion of number 1 and 2 driver roles.
"This is a problem that we don't plan to ask ourselves yet," he insisted.
"Leclerc and Sainz are both fast and strong drivers."
Giancarlo Minardi, a former F1 team owner and boss and now president of the Imola circuit, said when asked about the Leclerc-Sainz speculation: "Let's go slow.
"In Australia, Sainz had a bad weekend," he told Corriere della Sera. "He got nervous and made a mistake.
"It is not like him - he's a reliable driver. But there is no need to worry because Ferrari also wants the constructors' title and Carlos is one of the best in F1.
"With Charles they make a winning couple and you will see that he will reflect and never fail in that way again," Minardi added.
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