Sainz enjoyed an excellent first season with Ferrari and adjusted quickest out of the drivers who changed teams over the winter as he swapped the orange of McLaren for scarlet Ferrari red. 

His third-place finish in Abu Dhabi was overshadowed by a dramatic conclusion to the world championship. By his own admission, Sainz admitted his fourth podium of the year would be one “no one will remember”. 

It was a result that saw Sainz leapfrog both his Ferrari teammate Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris into fifth place in the championship with 164.5 points to cap off his best season in F1. 

Sainz also stood on the third step of the podium in Russia and Hungary, while he claimed a career-best finish of second place with his first Monaco podium and first rostrum for Ferrari around the streets of Monte Carlo

As was expected, the lightning-fast Leclerc had the better qualifying results, taking back-to-back poles in Monaco and Baku, but Sainz still performed strongly in this area. 

The Spaniard’s best result on a Saturday came with a surprise second on the grid in Sochi, having turned in an outstanding lap in tricky wet but drying conditions to end up behind only Norris’s McLaren. 

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Sainz’s efforts in both qualifying and the races were admirable and proved that he is more than capable of holding his own against Leclerc, whose starring performances in 2019 and 2020 ultimately fast-tracked four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel’s demise at the team. 

Mistakes were made along the way, with a streak of crashes around the mid-season mark in Hungary, Zandvoort and Italy threatening to knock Sainz’s confidence and momentum. But his response was mature and intelligent, having acknowledged that he was still learning Ferrari’s car, which had a tendency to catch him out in mid-corner.

Sainz bounced back in style with a noteworthy step forwarded in performance during the second half of the season, where his consistency and work ethic really stood out. 

He was rewarded with a staggering run of 14-consecutive finishes inside the points amid Ferrari’s late charge to chasing down and then convincingly overhauling McLaren to third place in the constructors’ championship. 

For us, Sainz gets the nod just ahead of Leclerc based on the way he has handled the challenge of adapting to life in his new surroundings and seamlessly fit in at a team that was very much considered to be his teammate’s turf.

Sainz has always been highly-rated ever since his arrival on the F1 grid as a Red Bull junior with Toro Rosso. Over the past two seasons, he has underlined exactly why he was deserving of a front-running drive. 

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There is a strong case to argue that Ferrari has the strongest driver line-up on the grid. Team principal Mattia Binotto certainly believes so, having reiterated that exact claim several times throughout the year. I am inclined to agree. 

With much of Ferrari’s focus being primed on F1’s looming regulation overhaul, 2022 could be a hugely exciting season for Scuderia fans. 

It will be fascinating to see what Sainz can achieve with an even more competitive car and how both he and Leclerc would fare in machinery that is capable of challenging for wins on a regular basis. 

Come back tomorrow to find out who sits at #3 in our list.