Montoya: Sainz can upstage Leclerc with 'comfortable' car

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Former Grand Prix driver Juan-Pablo Montoya believes that Carlos Sainz can gain the upper hand over Charles Leclerc if Ferrari produces a car to the Spaniard's liking.

Sainz took his first F1 win last season when he triumphed in the British Grand Prix, but overall, the Scuderia charger finished well adrift from Leclerc in the Drivers' standings.

The Monegasque took three wins during the 2022 campaign and appeared at one point as reigning world champion Max Verstappen's only threat for the title.

This year, Leclerc will be hoping to hit the ground running in Bahrain and to carry his challenge to the end of the season.

However, fighting for a maiden title will submit Leclerc to inevitable pressure, while Verstappen, with more experience and two world championships under his belt, will be feeling a lot less strain.

And that will provide the Red Bull driver with an edge according to Montoya.

"I think Charles is very good, but Max has more experience," Montoya told the's Spanish affiliate.

"And I think that the more experience and more victories, and with the championship now under his credit, that takes away a lot of pressure.

"So it’s much easier for Max to win the championship than for Charles – because Charles would go for his first."

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The prospect of another fierce rivalry between Verstappen and Leclerc is an enticing one for F1 fans.

However, Montoya suggests that Sainz might well join the party this time around by first giving his Ferrari teammate a run for his money.

But for that challenge to materialize, the talented Spaniard will need to feel "comfortable" with his equipment, assuming the latter will also prove fast and reliable.


"To tell the truth, if Carlos can be comfortable in the car, I think he can do a very good job," added Montoya who pointed to Sainz's superior performance relative to Leclerc during the pair's first season together at Ferrari in 2021.

"If we look at the old cars at the end of the year, not last year, but the previous year, Carlos was beating Charles every week.

"So it all depends on the comfort of the driver in the car."

In the Red Bull camp, Montoya does not see Sergio Perez contesting Verstappen's dominant position withing the team.

"Is Checo a better driver than Max? The truth is that no," said the seven-time Grand Prix winner.

"He is a very good driver, but I don’t think he’s at Max’s level."

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