Helmut Marko says Carlos Sainz is missing “three to four tenths” on Charles Leclerc and that it is a problem for Red Bull as it means he’s not taking points off his team-mate.
After two years in the doldrums without a win, Ferrari have come to the fore this season and have emerged as Max Verstappen’s main rival for the World title.
Or at least Leclerc has.
The Monégasque driver won the opening race in Bahrain and finished half a second behind Verstappen at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
But while Sainz joined his team-mate on the podium in both races, it at no stage looked as if he could challenge his team-mate for position.
And that, Marko says, is a worry for Red Bull.
“I was pleasantly surprised last year that he [Sainz] was on the same level as Leclerc, and I was actually hoping that it would be the same this year,” the Red Bull motorsport advisor told Formel1.de.
“But you could already see it in the tests, and you could also see it in the race, that he’s missing about three to four tenths.
“And that is a disadvantage for us because we believed that the two [Ferrari drivers] would take points away from each other. That is not the case at the moment.”
Taking the fastest lap point in both races, Leclerc leads the Drivers’ Championship with 45 points, 12 ahead of Sainz and 20 ahead of Verstappen.
Marko, though, has backed Sainz to bounce back.
“Sainz is an intelligent, fast man,” he said. “I assume he will sort things out accordingly and then hopefully get a boost.”
The Spaniard has yet to step onto the top step of the podium in Formula 1 but insists he is ready to take that first step towards a title fight.
“I would like to get a win, and the rest, let’s see,” he told the Beyond the Grid podcast. “I keep chasing my dream in Formula 1, which is to win the first race obviously, then a championship. But to win a championship, you need to win a race.
“I will keep chasing that; I am not saying it will happen but it’s what I wake up every morning or go to sleep with in my head every day, so I wish it to happen.
“I have been ready for a while for my first win. To win a World Championship, you need a win and consistent podiums, and over the last few years, I have shown, and I have proved to myself, that every time I had an opportunity to score a podium, I’ve got it.
“I have had the chance to win once or twice, and I’ve nearly made it. So, I am confident; you give me the right car, I think I can be there.”
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