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Ferrari

Are Ferrari duo Sainz and Leclerc the modern day Mansell and Prost?

Not since the late 1980s have Ferrari had such an exciting driver lineup. Find out why sparks could fly come the 2021 F1 season when Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz become teammates.

Analysis
To news overview © Ferrari

In 1990, Ferrari hired the services of the reigning world champion Alain Prost after the Frenchman departed McLaren in acrimonious circumstances despite winning the 1989 F1 world championship.

Nigel Mansell who himself had joined the Scuderia only a year before, comfortably saw off the challenge posed by Gerhard Berger and entered the 1990 season as Ferrari's lead driver. However, despite performing remarkably well the previous season Mansell was always skeptical of Prost's arrival to the team, especially since Ferrari awarded the Frenchman with the No.1 status striping Mansell of his position.

The Englishman's suspicion would be proven right when in Silverstone it was discovered that Ferrari had swapped the cars of Prost and Mansell without seeking the permission of the Englishman.

This caused Mansell to announce his retirement from Formula 1 (he would later backtrack on the decision) and the British legend would go to great lengths to never team up with Prost in Formula 1 again.

Mansell would also make life very difficult for Porst, in Estoril he would drive the Frenchman off the racing line causing Prost to lose positions and valuable points in the championship. Ultimately Prost would lose the title to Senna and Mansell would depart Ferrari for Williams.

In Carlos Sainz, Ferrari have a driver who could pose the team with a similar dilemma. Many expect the Spaniard to be a number two driver to the Monegasque Charles Leclerc. However, Sainz has improved leaps and bounds over the past two seasons with McLaren and there is no evidence to suggest that he won't continue improving.

Leclerc will not be easy to beat, after all, he saw off the challenge of a four-time world champion in Sebastian Vettel. Having come up via the Ferrari Driver Academy, Leclerc is also likely to be considered the team's favorite son.

While Ferrari have maintained that both drivers enter the year having an equal shot at the championship, a quick glance at the team's history would suggest that the narrative is more a party line for the press rather than a true representation of how the Ferrari F1 team operate.

No.2 Driver?

The other issue Ferrari face is that Sainz is racing for his future and he will be unlikely to play second fiddle to a driver who is less experienced in Formula 1 than him. With the likes of Mick Schumacher and Robert Schwartzman eyeing a role with the Ferrari team in the medium to long term, Sainz has faced questions regarding his future before even competing in his first race with the team. This is likely to cause him to push harder keeping his own interests in mind.

The Spaniard also seems to be gelling well with the team and this has caused a certain amount of discomfort in the Leclerc camp. Leclerc is now Ferrari's de facto team leader, he has also gone from being the hunter to becoming the hunted. How he responds could also offer Ferrari a true insight into his world championship credentials.

The pairing of Leclerc and Sainz is also the team's second-youngest driver lineup in the entirety of their Formula 1 history, whether this hints at the team's willingness to change how they function is open to debate, however, it does mark a great opportunity for Ferrari to turn a page with respect to how they treat their drivers.

Prost ultimately failed to win the 1990 driver's championship, ensuring that Ferrari's driver's championship drought continued into its 12th season. The team are in a similar situation as it has now been 13 years since the team last won the driver's championship, while 2021 is unlike to be the year in which the team breaks this run, 2022 represents a real chance for them to break out of this cycle especially if they can keep their drivers motivated over the course of the next two years.

One thing is for sure the arrival of Sainz could pose the biggest challenge yet to Leclerc's short F1 career.

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