Life’s not that easy when you are a Formula 1 racing driver. Moreover, it can’t get any tougher, truth be told, when you are a Formula 1 driver with Ferrari.
The sky high expectations aren’t the only botheration. The fact that Ferrari haven’t yet won a driver’s title in over a decade and a half is a constant reminder that you’re aren’t on some fun ride where a race win here or there will do it.
And that’ll they’ll be swept away by your standing on the top step of some fan favourite Grand Prix.
They won’t let you forget it. And perhaps your own conscience won’t let you be at peace unless and until you’re in it to win it akin to the sheer ruthlessness that someone like Max Verstappen has demonstrated for the past three seasons.
But is it fair to only have expectations and endlessly so, from a certain Charles Leclerc?
At the moment, you’d much rather be anyone else than Leclerc, with due respect to the youngster.
DNF galore notwithstanding, Charles is in a space where perhaps being by himself can put him up with some perspective. There’ve been thefts. His personal residence details just got leaked that led to a swarming of fans underneath his Monaco apartment. It’s not going too well for CL 16.
But this brings us to next big question. How’s it for Carlos Sainz Jr. at the moment?
The noted Spanish driver’s most important Ferrari moment, besides winning the scintillating British Grand Prix last year, it could be argued was scoring more points than his teammate in 2021.
It would be an effort that would resuscitate Ferrari from the dubious reputation of being a midfielder that had forgotten how to punch above its weight.
And that really is it. For where 2023 is concerned, despite scoring more points than his teammate, there’s little that’s gone Sainz’ way.
Is that a big unbecoming taunt?
Let’s delve into statistics.
This time last year, Carlos Sainz had scored 2 podiums from 3 race entries, which included a DNF.
While at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia he’d gather a P2 and P3 respectively in 2022, this year Sainz has only been able to score a fourth and sixth at the said venues.
Forget podiums insofar in 2023; the fact that the Ferrari man has been able to break into a top five finish on only one occasion gives an inlet into the Sainz dilemma.
But then it’s not a dilemma for which the Spaniard solely could be held accountable.
The Ferraris are quite disappointing on the qualifying pace, nearly a three tenths down or maybe .4 seconds off the Aston Martin pace on Saturdays.
That they’re only better off than the McLaren and Alpha Tauri race pace is no saving grace but a serious perspective as to how big a gap they do have to the usual front runners Red Bull.
Upon the completion of the year, when Binotto was asked to leave soon after which it became known that the man with avuncular presence and great experience Fred Vasseur would take over as the team’s chief, some unsettled nerves were finally soothed.
Perhaps ditto for the two drivers especially Leclerc whose presence at Sauber right at the start of his career was under the Frenchman’s cautious eyes.
There was faith that together with two extremely capable drivers and the overall engineering superiority that’s ever been Ferrari’s strength the big void would be overcome.
One expected the strategy department to sharpen and up its game.
But forget that, the current woes point to the drivers piloting a car that’s far from being a race winner.
What have Aston Martin done that Ferrari haven’t isn’t quite the question. Well, it is. Just one of them.
What is, it seems, is that what leadership and direction can a man of Vasseur’s experience and stature offer a team that already looks tired.
Lest it is forgotten, we are only three races into the 23-race loaded season and excessive tyre ware as seen on demanding circuits such as Jeddah is just one of Ferrari’s problems.
Where’s the imposing straight line speed as seen at Melbourne last year?
Where’s the element of pressure that made the Ferraris a compelling drive on most Saturdays and even Sundays before some weird pit call binned it eventually?
At the moment, Leclerc’s so far off the points table that maybe Ocon and Gasly will open a considerable gap on the Monegasque by the looks of it.
Sainz, for all his talent and intensity, is embroiled in that Melbourne ruling where even as on date, it’s not clear whether his P4 would be reinstated or not.
Instead of becoming the subject of a well deserved podium, here he is as the poster boy of an FIA ruling that has everyone confused even as Alonso exclaimed that the penalty imposed on his compatriot was a touch too much.
The only concrete thing that one can concur as far as Ferrari’s 2023 run is concerned is that, not for the first time, the struggle is real.
Forget about having a winning car, neither of the cars have reached a front row finish.
All of this is likely to only add more pressure on the dynamic duo of the Scarlet red cars as the fourth race at Azerbaijan nears.
Even though there’s still three weeks to go, every single day and every hour packed in it will eventually determine the imminent future of a team we may make fun of on social media but can’t get out of our minds.
The only way, they say, to make it count in sport is to bounce back strongly. Good for Ferrari that unlike rivals Mercedes’ proposing problems of 2022, their cars aren’t bouncing yet.
But the key question is- can Sainz and Leclerc get behind the wheels of a car that somehow packs that elusive punch and reaches the front of the row?
The next few weeks will be much too crucial for the most famous racing marquee of the sport and Leclerc and Sainz will hopefully give it their everything.