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Carlos Sainz has been warned that his role at Ferrari may be reduced to a supportive one if Charles Leclerc continues his superb early season form. Leclerc, 24, has enjoyed a storming start to the 2022 campaign, kicking off a new era in F1 by winning in Bahrain. He was edged into second by Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia, but bounced back to take the chequered flag again in Australia last Sunday.
That’s left him top of the standings on 71 points, 34 clear of Mercedes man George Russell in second place. Scuderia team-mate Carlos Sainz is third on 33, having failed to back up consecutive podium places [second and third] by failing to finish in Melbourne.
Already, it’s the Monegasque man who has been touted as the potential 2022 champion, with main rivals Red Bull and Mercedes enduring problems with the reliability and pace of their adapted cars. And that’s a notion which Martin Brundle thinks could lead to Sainz, 27, having to scale back his own title ambitions.
Earlier in the campaign, the Spaniard said the team would let the pair compete against each other in a title battle, but also conceded: “Obviously, if one of us stands out and gains a lead in the standings, the other one will help during the world championship fight.”
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Writing in his column for Sky Sports F1, Brundle said: “Carlos Sainz had the weekend from hell [in Australia], missing out on a solid qualifying lap when his friend Fernando Alonso caused a red flag by crashing due to technical issues, and then with further engine starting dramas not delivering a representative lap.
“Out of true position in ninth on the grid, he needed a last-minute steering wheel change which led to an awful start, and he then proceeded to have a brutal midfield fight on hard compound tyres, eventually impatiently spinning off the road. He may well end up having to play a supporting role to Leclerc from here, depending on how the competition shapes up and if he can win the next couple of races, which is not out of the question.”
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This current season represents the longest in F1 history, with 23 Grand Prix races in all. So there is plenty of time for the likes of Sainz, and world champion Verstappen, to respond to Leclerc’s early form.
However, he will head to Imola next week as the man to beat again, and knowing he has the chance to open up a gap of 40 points plus at the top. Following that race on April 24, drivers will head to Miami for the inaugural race there on May 8.
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