Interview

Verstappen loved in Italy: They dream to see Max in a Ferrari

Verstappen loved in Italy: "They dream to see Max in a Ferrari"

23 May - 17:34 Last update: 20:11
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GPblog.com

Ferrari is right back where it belongs: at the top of Formula 1. The Maranello-based team led both World Championships ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, but Red Bull Racing are providing maximum pressure. For now, what is the Italian perspective on the 2022 season in the premier class of motorsport? GPblog.com spoke with Flavio Vanetti, F1 correspondent for the newspaper Corriere della Sera.

No designated team leader at Ferrari

Carlos Sainz managed to trump Charles Leclerc in the battle for the World Championship last year, but this season he has yet to match his Monaco teammate. Ferrari claim they are not yet ready to go for a number one driver, but if the current situation continues, it seems inevitable that Mattia Binotto will give Leclerc the captain's armband.

Designating a number one might not be so crazy. Historically, the Italian formation has had an absolute team leader more often than not. Asked how long Ferrari will stick to its current approach, Vanett replied: "The team will always use this “format”. But, of course, if one day one of the two will run for the title he will be considered as a “number one”. In Italy we don’t care too much of this situation: the “Tifosi” only wish to see a winning Ferrari."

At Ferrari, at least, there seems to be good cooperation, including between Sainz and Leclerc. The men get along well, work hard and also seem to begrudge each other success. The question is, however, how long that will last. Vanetti does not rule out the possibility that cracks will appear in the relationship if Ferrari continues to compete for winning the world championship. "It’s pretty ok, so far: they are friend and they respect each other. Charles is definitely a little bit ahead of Carlos. But Sainz is all the times there, so I can imagine that in the future some issues can arise, especially if they should fight for the title."

At Ferrari, they are incredibly happy with Leclerc and Sainz. The two get along well and are considered the best driver duo on the grid by team boss Mattia Binotto and president John Elkann.

Is Sainz the right man?

In public opinion, there has been a bit more doubt about Sainz in recent weeks. Can he match the level of his teammate and can he withstand the pressure? Sainz has already had a number of crashes in the early part of the F1 season. Ferrari has in any case a lot of confidence in their Spanish driver, as it recently handed out a two-year contract extension. How do people in Italy view the driver Sainz? "I think Carlos is an affordable driver, suitable for a team that aims to win also the constructor title. I don’t expect he will make a dramatic upgrade in his performance, but he can get podiums (maybe also victories) and he is very committed to Ferrari. So, it definitely a good choice (maybe the right one as well)."

For the long haul, we may be looking at Mick Schumacher. The son of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher is driving his second season at Haas F1 this year. It is possible that the young German is the right person to replace a Sainz after 2024. "Of course, emotionally, everybody would like to see Mick in a red car. But he still has to learn (too many mistakes with Haas, which is a good car) and, maybe, he has not Michael’s talent." Vanetti argued that we should give Schumacher Jr. time and that jumping to conclusions now would be premature.

Ferrari vs. Red Bull

Back to the here-and-now, as the battle between Red Bull and Ferrari seems to be getting more exciting by the week. Vanetti stresses once again that it is the development battle that is going to decide who will be standing with the title in their hands at the end of the race. "A prediction is impossible. The whole development process of the cars during the season is going to be hugely important."

In part, Formula 1 already has an engine freeze, but the Energy Store, Control Electronics and the MGU-K may continue to be developed until the end of the summer. Whether there is another major engine update coming at Ferrari, Vanetti does not know. "I didn’t hear anything of that. I think it could be an option, as they have to recover: but the main changes will be related to the car floor."

"Ferrari are still six points ahead of rivals Red Bull in the constructors' championship, but in the meantime the Austrians do seem to have the faster car with the RB18 thanks to updates."

Lots of pressure for Leclerc and Verstappen

So much will depend on updates, but there are more variables. Experience, for example. Verstappen knows what it is like to perform under heavy pressure when a World Championship title is at stake. For Leclerc, it's the first time he has a serious chance of becoming World Champion, so he may be at a bit of a disadvantage in that respect. "Maybe. But this year he proved to be on the proper way to clean some issues related to the inexperience. But we consider Max favourite for the title."

For Ferrari themselves, the pressure is coming full circle. The last world title dates back 14 years. If we're going to have another battle like we saw last year between Mercedes and Red Bull this fall, it's important that Ferrari keeps its Italian temperament in check, Vanetti thinks. "They are forced to do that. Otherwise they will lose."

What is certain is that Ferrari will have a big job to do with Red Bull and Verstappen. The 24-year-old Dutchman is far from satisfied with his world title last season. He seems to be even sharper and more eager. In Italy, at least, they are watching the achievements of the current number two in the championship with admiration. "Of course they [the fans in Italy] dream to see Max in a Ferrari." Vanetti concludeD the interview with a big smile. Verstappen is still tied up with Red Bull until 2028, so in Italy they will have to keep their patience a little longer.

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