After taking an early lead in both championships under new F1 regulations for 2022, Ferrari have seen their hopes dim after falling behind Max Verstappen and Red Bull in the standings.
Leclerc is 80 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ championship going into the last nine races, having lost ground with retirements in Spain and Azerbaijan, as well as a rotation while leading in France. Ferrari is 97 points behind Red Bull at the top of the constructors’ standings.
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Ferrari have been regularly asked this year if they would seek to prioritize Leclerc and use Sainz to help the Monegasque’s title hopes, only to have the team always stress that it was too early to make such considerations.
Asked by Autosport about Ferrari’s approach to team orders this year, sporting director Laurent Mekies said the issue was discussed more away from home than at Maranello.
“You’re right that it’s more discussed outside Ferrari than inside Ferrari,” Mekies said.
“But more seriously, we have always been very clear. Our goal is to have the best result for the team. Ferrari goes first.
“Then, of course, there will be a time when we have to focus more on one driver over the other if the championship position requires it.
“So it doesn’t mean waiting for the mathematical difference, but it means being at the point in the season where you think it’s the right thing to do.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Ferrari
Sainz managed to claim his first F1 victory at the British Grand Prix in July, overtaking Leclerc after a safety car restart when Ferrari split their strategies and opted to pit Sainz for fresh tyres.
The team were criticized for their strategic calls in Hungary after squandering Leclerc’s lead midway through the race by fitting him with hard tyres, dropping him to sixth place.
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Ferrari had defended its strategy just a race earlier in France, when it had to pit Sainz in the closing stages to serve a penalty and take on a new set of tires when radio messages suggested there was confusion on the wall of stalls.
Mekies said the delay in getting radio messages to Sainz at the Paul Ricard was a good example of “how different situations can be seen inside and outside the teams”, and that the perceived confusion was “just the result of the radio message broadcast 30 or 40 seconds after what actually happened”.
“If you were to go back, you would call Carlos back exactly like we did and do the pit stop exactly like we did, so it shows how difficult it is these days, in a complex sport, to understand the reasons for one strategy or another,” Mekies said.
“That being said, we lost a lot of points this year. We have reliability issues, we have a few things we need to improve on. And yes, we are working extremely hard on it.
“It doesn’t increase the pressure, because the pressure is maximum all the time because it’s a competitive world, and that’s how we like it anyway.
“But it’s positive pressure, it’s what drives us to improve race after race.”