'No need for team orders' yet according Ferrari boss
Between Melbourne - a horror weekend for Sainz - and the Spaniard's Q2 crash in Friday qualifying at Imola, a new two-year Ferrari deal for the 27-year-old was announced.
And there is no clause about him being number 2, boss Mattia Binotto insists.
"No, both have the right to express themselves as well as possible," he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Leclerc is 38 points ahead of Sainz in the drivers' championship, with the pair's tally ensuring Ferrari is well ahead of the pack in the teams' standings.
"At this point there is no need for orders," Binotto said.
"Without the mistake in Melbourne, Carlos would be second in the world championship. And if he wins, he takes points away from Verstappen, the real rival."
When asked to describe Ferrari's current driving pairing, he said: "Leclerc has broad shoulders - he occupies the entire circuit.
"If he's in the lead it's very hard to beat him. He's a wizard in a fight," said the Italian.
"Carlos is working hard. He's a fast driver who likes to analyse the data. He knows how to adapt and grow and he still needs time. But he always gets there."
It's clear that Leclerc is at least the de-facto Ferrari favourite at present, with Binotto saying the performance in Melbourne reminded him of his days working with Michael Schumacher.
"At times it seemed to me that I was reliving those good times," Binotto, 52, admitted.
"It had been a long time since we won with such a performance advantage. What I see is hunger - not just the desire to win individual races or even the world championship. Much more than that."
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