Bleekemolen sees a strange situation at Ferrari: ‘Sainz seems stronger than Leclerc’

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Bleekemolen sees a strange situation at Ferrari: 'Sainz seems stronger than Leclerc'

After the race at the Suzuka circuit, all analysts were immediately ready to share their views on the race. At the table at the NOS were racing driver Jeroen Bleekemolen and former Formula 1 driver Jan Lammers. Not only Verstappen’s dominance was discussed, the fate of Daniel Ricciardo and the power struggle at Ferrari were also discussed.

“It was game, set, and match,” Bleekemolen says about the race. He was very pleased with Verstappen’s performance in Japan. ‘Everyone is talking about everything, except Verstappen. But he did it flawlessly. He is in a special category.’

Crash and future of Ricciardo

The Japanese Grand Prix started turbulently when, just after the start, VCARB driver Ricciardo and Williams driver Alexander Albon collided and both ended up in the wall. While some point to Ricciardo, Bleekemolen had a different opinion. “I thought it was a bit unnecessary,” he says of the crash. ‘Albon should have chosen his money’s worth. Ricciardo just didn’t see him and you have to anticipate that when you drive behind him.’

The rumor mill surrounding the future of the Australian driver has been working overtime for some time. Yet Bleekemolen and Lammers doubt whether the crash in Suzuka will have a major impact on what will happen to Ricciardo. “It was really bad luck,” says Lammers. ‘It is also the team’s strategy to drive on harder tires than others. Tsunoda and him were having a hard time. When the wing (of Albon, ed.) hits the right rear tire, it is gone in an instant. If that bond had remained intact, I think they would both still be driving.’

Pérez had a strong weekend

Sergio Pérez’s contract with VCARB’s parent team, Red Bull Racing, expires at the end of this season. At the moment, his future is also uncertain. “I think Pérez has let go of wanting to beat Verstappen,” says Bleekemolen.

‘Pérez makes small mistakes that Verstappen does not make. He must certainly fear for next season.’ For example, Bleekemolen refers to the moment during the race when Pérez briefly touched the apex with his floor.

Nevertheless, according to Bleekemolen, the Mexican had a good weekend. “I thought he had a strong weekend,” he says. ‘It is clear that he is a little slower (than Verstappen, ed.).’

Changing of the guard at Ferrari

The topic of discussion during the race analysis was mainly the performance of the Ferrari team. “There is peace and control at Ferrari,” says Lammers. ‘They used two different strategies and there was something to be said for both. I expected Leclerc to end up in third place.’

Bleekemolen finds it remarkable that Carlos Sainz again finishes ahead of Leclerc. “It’s clear that Sainz is the best in the team this season,” he says. Meanwhile, the Spaniard is only left without a seat for next season, as Lewis Hamilton takes over his seat at Ferrari. “It is a very strange situation as he is leaving and Leclerc remains with the team.” According to Bleekemolen, the results of the past period show that Sainz now has the upper hand with the team.

“The relationships (between the drivers, ed.) are starting to become known to many teams,” says Bleekemolen. “At Ferrari it now seems that Sainz is stronger than Leclerc,” he concludes. Lammers has his doubts about Sainz’s forced departure from the Italian racing team. ‘I don’t know if it makes sense. Wanting to hire a seven-time world champion is understandable for Ferrari. But statistically speaking, how many more world championships will he collect? If you want something for the future, you would go with a younger driver.’

Still many races to go

However, according to the men at the table at NOS, it is still too early to assume the dominance of certain drivers within the teams. ‘It’s still a very long season. You almost rarely see that drivers have the upper hand all year round,” says Lammers. ‘Pérez is now trying to be the best Pérez. That is very good. Leclerc will soon also let go of Sainz’s dominance. If he starts being the best Leclerc again, you could have another changing of the guard.’

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