Charles Leclerc says Carlos Sainz forced him to raise his game in 2021 and to improve his weak points versus his Ferrari teammate.
Sainz's transfer from McLaren to the Scuderia, which was announced in the spring of 2020 during F1's lockdown, triggered a whirlwind of speculation from pundits who generally believed that the Spaniard would struggle to measure up to Leclerc, heralded as one of the brightest young talents in the sport.
But Sainz defied expectations, and seamlessly adapted to his Ferrari team, racing on a par with his teammate from the outset and ending his first campaign with the Italian outfit fifth in the Drivers' standings, or two spots and 5.5 points ahead of Leclerc.
By his own admittance, the two-time Grand Prix winner says he "learned a lot" from Sainz with whom he also enjoys a good off-track relationship.
"As always when you have a new team-mate you always learn, [like] the new ways Carlos is approaching race weekends, the way he works, his talent, his raw speed also, the way he takes the corners," commented Leclerc, quotes by Motorsport.com.
"He had an amazing year, so he obviously pushed me very, very much to try and perform better at every race and it’s just been extremely interesting."
Leclerc pinpointed one of Sainz's specific strengths that required more work on his side of the garage on race weekends.
"I think maybe one of the strong points of Carlos is the race management and tyre management, and that was probably my weakness in 2019," he said.
"I progressed a lot as a driver in 2020 and again last year, and part of last year was thanks to Carlos."