Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have defended Ferrari from recent Italian media reports suggesting turmoil behind the scenes, with the latter saying the press is trying to “destabalise” the team.
Ferrari’s F1 team has been under fire over the past few weeks after a disappointing opening race, which saw Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso beat Sainz to the final spot of the podium after teammate Leclerc had retired with an engine issue.
Reports in Italy have suggested there is a culture clash between some of the team’s senior engineers and Ferrari’s CEO Benedetto Vigna, who hired Fred Vasseur to replace the ousted Mattia Binotto as team principal over the winter.
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The departure of Ferrari’s head of vehicle performance David Sanchez last week also fueled rumours of discontent behind the scenes.
Sainz said the tone of those reports do not match what he is seeing at the team.
When asked how the mood at Ferrari is currently, Sainz replied: “It is a lot better than what the news make it sound like.
“If you look back at this last weekend and how many rumors there have been around, it seems like the place is not in a great moment, but I can tell you it is so clear to us what we need to improve, how we need to do it, what are the short, medium and long term targets, that I’m actually very surprised at how some people back at home have been trying to destabilise the team.
“Some call it a crisis but we’ve only done one race, it’s impossible to judge a team’s performance after just one race, and we are the first ones not happy with how this first race went, we are the most worried about it and we are the most affected by it and we’re going to try as much as possible to improve. I’m quite calm about it, I see people at the factory are committed, focused and with a very clear target in mind and I include myself in it.”
One report in Italy last week suggested Leclerc had a meeting with Ferrari president John Elkann for assurances about the direction of the team.
When asked about that report on Thursday, Leclerc said: “This is absolutely untrue.
“There have been loads of rumours around the team, which, for once, 90% of them were completely unfounded.
“So yeah, I don’t know from where it is coming from, and to be honest, I don’t want to spend even any energy on trying to find from where it’s coming from. We just need to be on it and focused our ourselves.”
Leclerc echoed what his teammate said concerning the mood around the team.
“I obviously saw these rumours, and then I went to Maranello, so I was at first, I was like, I’m not sure how the team is going to react to it. But then we’ve had a meeting with the whole team, with all the Ferrari employees, and I was really surprised. Everybody is fully on it and fully positive still, which is great. We need to all push in the same direction, as I said, this is the most important to me.”
Leclerc will serve a 10-place grid penalty this weekend after Ferrari was forced to move on to his third control electronics unit of the season, having suffered two separate failures ahead of and during the opening race of the year, the Bahrain Grand Prix.