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Ferrari faces challenge managing rising driver tension

Ferrari faces challenge managing rising driver tension
© Reuters
"Sparks" between Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc risks turning into a "fire", as suggested by a renowned Italian F1 insider.

"Sparks" between Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc risks turning into a "fire", as suggested by a renowned Italian F1 insider.

Meanwhile, Mercedes faces its own challenges, with Lewis Hamilton performing below expectations in what might be his last season before replacing Carlos Sainz at Ferrari.

"Lewis is in a surprisingly good mood," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff during an interview with Servus TV last weekend in China, a race where Hamilton notably mismanaged his car setup.

"I don't know if it's because he knows that next year he'll go somewhere else," Wolff continued. "But it's not like him at all."

At Ferrari, initial signs of genuine discord between the dismissed Sainz and his teammate Charles Leclerc surfaced in Shanghai.

Leclerc voiced concerns about Sainz's overly aggressive tactics during the sprint race, and tensions were further strained by another altercation at the start of the subsequent Chinese GP.

"It doesn't help to lose two positions like that," conceded Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur.

Earlier, Sainz's notable performance early in 2024 faltered during qualifying when he crashed in Q2, with Vasseur acknowledging that one of the key issues in Shanghai was "grid position."

"It is difficult to have a complete weekend when we make many mistakes collectively," he added diplomatically.

Regarding the competitive rivalry between Leclerc and Sainz, 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg recommended that Ferrari adopt a Mercedes-style system to regulate driver conduct.

"No other team has rules like that, especially not Ferrari, but now they have to do it too," Rosberg told Sky Deutschland.

Leo Turrini, a prominent Ferrari insider and journalist, concurs that Ferrari needs to swiftly address the emerging friction between Leclerc and Sainz.

"We are just at the beginning of a very long season and the sparks of Shanghai are the promise of a fire," he wrote in his Quotidiano column.

Former Ferrari team leader Cesare Fiorio, however, questions what Vasseur can really do to manage the situation.

"I don't know their contracts," he admitted to Corriere dello Sport, "but a loss of control by Sainz should have been considered at the start of the season. Vasseur can't do much about it," Fiorio speculated.

The situation might stabilize once Sainz, 29, secures a new deal for 2025, reducing his urgency to demonstrate that he is the fastest and most motivated Ferrari driver this season.

His manager and cousin, Carlos Onoro Sainz, has indicated that for now, no decisions will be made.

"For the time being, we continue to weigh our options," he stated. "Everyone can sleep peacefully between China and Miami, don't worry."

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