Carlos Sainz will “give Charles Leclerc a run for his money” and can be a Formula 1 race winner at Ferrari, according to Sky F1’s Jenson Button and McLaren boss Zak Brown.
After five years flashing his promise and star potential in F1’s midfield, Sainz will make a big step-up in 2021 when he replaces four-time champion Sebastian Vettel at the sport’s most successful and famous team.
Ferrari have admitted the signing of Sainz, 25, is a “gamble” and part of a “long-term project”, with many of the belief that the Spaniard will be playing a number two role behind Leclerc, who dazzled in his debut season in red, and help the team move away from the Vettel-Leclerc conflicts of last year.
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But speaking on the F1 Show, 2009 world champion Button disagreed and feels Sainz, while a team player, will be more than a match for Leclerc.
“If Mattia Binotto [Ferrari boss] has gone for Carlos because he thinks he’s a good pair of hands but won’t really give Charles a run for his money, then I think he’s mistaken,” said Button.
“I think Carlos is a winner. He wants to bring home a championship. So [Binotto] has chosen the wrong person if he just wants a good atmosphere.”
Sainz enjoyed his best F1 season to date in his rookie year with McLaren in 2019, lifting the team to fourth in the standings, himself to sixth, and securing his first podium. And he won’t be leaving on bad terms.
Brown told Sky F1 last week that the talks about joining Ferrari were all “very above board” and that “there’s a real affection for Sainz at McLaren and always will be”.
“It’s great to see that drivers and teams can separate and there not be animosity because I think if you look at some of the other movements, it looks like unfortunately there’s some bad blood yet those people still need to race together this year,” the McLaren F1 CEO said on the Vodcast. “So I’m quite proud of how we’ve all handled it.”
And Brown is also backing Sainz to be successful at the Scuderia.
“Carlos did a better job than I even thought he was going to do [last year] and obviously we wouldn’t have signed him if we didn’t think he was going to do a good job. He really didn’t make any mistakes.
“He’s very fast, he’s a team player – I never felt nervous when Lando [Norris] and Carlos were around each other on the track.
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