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Ferrari address questions over team orders ahead of Imola

Charles Leclerc has built up an early lead in the 2022 F1 title race, but Ferrari won't be throwing their full support behind him at this stage of the season.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto insists Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be "free to fight" as the F1 season continues at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Leclerc holds a commanding 34-point lead over his nearest rival - Mercedes driver George Russell - after the first three races, having won in Bahrain and Australia, and finished second in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, teammate Carlos Sainz is four points further back after a particularly damaging weekend at Albert Park, with the Spaniard admitting he needs to be "hard on himself" . This has already led to suggestions of Sainz becoming Ferrari's 'number two' driver and the Scuderia needing to apply team orders to fend off a recovery from Red Bull's Max Verstappen (46 points adrift).

No team orders at Ferrari as F1 arrives at Imola

However, Binotto has made clear that Ferrari are not considering any intra-team changes or instructions at this stage. "They are free to fight, and I think that's important for us," Binotto told Sky Sports F1 , when asked about his two drivers. "For Carlos, I think it's really important for him to prove the speed and the pace, and he will come back [stronger]. "I will enjoy then the battle for a good position in the championships!" As for where Leclerc is making the difference so far this season, Binotto added: "He's very focused right now [and] I think he's driving very well. "I think last year has been, again, important for him and for his growth. If you look as well in terms of tyre management [in Australia], it's been very good, and it's something that he's learned. "If I compare him to [his] very first season in F1, [it's] certainly a big change."

How are Ferrari approaching the 2022 title fight?

In addition to Leclerc's healthy lead in the Drivers' standings, Ferrari have a 39-point advantage over Mercedes in the Constructors' battle. Binotto, though, is refusing to get carried away, instead outlining a simple approach to the Imola weekend and beyond. "We are not managing the championship right now; it's only three races," added Binotto. "We are still focused on each single race and that I think is the way we will approach [the upcoming races]. "We know that in order to do a good weekend and to win you need to be perfect. It has been the case in Bahrain; we have not been perfect in Jeddah, and we lost; [in Australia] again it has been a great weekend. "Each single race [we will] try to do [our] best, and that's the way we will approach Imola and the following ones."

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