Jolyon Palmer believes that Ferrari may wait until the halfway point of the season to employ team orders between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
After the opening five races of the campaign, Leclerc leads the World Championship standings with 104 points. His closest rival is Max Verstappen, who is 19 points behind in second.
Sainz has had a tougher start to the year. The Spaniard has so far amassed 53 points, putting him fifth in the rankings and with a 51-point deficit to his teammate.
This has led to questions over whether the Scuderia may consider using team orders at a certain stage, should a scenario arise where Sainz may be ahead of Leclerc on track.
Can Sainz turn things around?
Palmer is highly doubtful that Ferrari would do this at the next couple of races, particularly with the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix being Sainz's home event.
"I can pretty much guarantee it won't be this weekend, if it does come," Palmer told the F1 Nation podcast, referring to the possibility of a team orders call.
"For Carlos, can you imagine telling him that he's got to get out the way? And he's never won a race."
Whilst Sainz has not been able to match Leclerc so far in 2022, Palmer will not rule out the possibility of the driver turning things around.
"It's the trickiest one for Carlos, because he beat Charles in the points last year," Palmer added.
"I don't think that point [of using team orders] comes just yet. We can all see the direction it's going, but you never say never.
"It just takes a couple of bad races, and it can swing back round at this point.
"It's just the relentless performance of those two [Leclerc and Verstappen] sort of looks ominous for their teammates, and then eventually, at some point, I think they have to do [team orders]."
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Sainz will "still think he can be World Champion"
Given that there are still 18 races remaining on the 2022 calendar, Palmer thinks that Sainz will still feel that he is in with a chance of battling for the title.
"[There's] just no way [team orders are] coming at the Spanish Grand Prix," the former Renault driver continued.
"It would be so irksome for Sainz to have to get out the way for his team at this stage in the championship, and he will still think he can be champion.
"You can cling on to the glimmer of hope, and all it needs is a Barcelona 2016 [where Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided]. The two championship rivals take each other out, someone else comes through to win, and they are all back in the fight, so it can change."
If team orders do come into effect at Ferrari, Palmer does not see this happening until a later stage in the campaign.
"I think it's too early for team orders," he said.
"I hate team orders, but it's probably inevitable. It's going to come probably halfway through the season."
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