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Sainz channels inner Jose Mourinho to slam Leclerc for ‘costly’ Chinese GP incident

Ferrari fell behind George Russell and Nico Hulkenberg at the 2024 Chinese GP when Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battled at the first corner

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Carlos Sainz blamed Charles Leclerc for costing Ferrari two positions at the start of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, as the teammates battled hard on the opening lap while allowing George Russell and Nico Hulkenberg through.

Sainz invoked a play on Jose Mourinho‘s famous ‘I prefer not to speak’ quip when asked about the incident, even though both drivers did repass the Mercedes and Haas on their way to finish fourth and fifth, led by Leclerc.

The incident happened less than 24 hours after Fred Vasseur was forced to intervene when Sainz forced Leclerc off the track at turn 14 in his hardball defence of fourth in the Chinese GP sprint race before the Monegasque driver muscled his way past at the start of the next lap.

With Sainz already axed by Ferrari in favour of Lewis Hamilton for 2025, China was the first weekend that Leclerc has outperformed his teammate but he was unable to draw level with the Spaniard’s three podiums in 2024 as the faster McLaren of Lando Norris took a deserved second-place.

“I prefer not to comment,” Sainz told Sky Sports F1 when asked about the first-lap incident. “But it’s obviously quite clear that it cost us both two positions so it helped neither of us.

“Given what our pace was today, better than P5 was impossible. We had a poor start with the situation there in turns one and two that cost both cars two positions, from then on we were just playing catch-up.

“We had to box very early for the hards and then we had to one-stop from lap 18, something like this and just went forever on the hard tyre which we never going to go much more forward on.

“At least we saved P5, which given the pace of the car this weekend and the decisions we took, the situation at the start it was the maximum we could achieve.”

Sainz: Ferrari relying on anticipated upgrade

Carlos Sainz during 2024 Japanese GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
Carlos Sainz during the 2024 Japanese GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Ferrari are hoping upgrades will transform their prospects in the coming races with Miami next on the calendar before the European leg of the season kicks off with a home race at Imola.

McLaren outqualified both Sainz and Leclerc at the Shanghai International Circuit and while the pair finished ahead of Oscar Piastri in the grand prix itself, the Australian was carrying with damage for the entire second half of the afternoon on his way to eighth.

“I think McLaren was just stronger this weekend,” Sainz added. “there’s nothing really to comment except they just were faster in every conditions, qualifying and race.

“I think there’ll be tracks where we’re stronger, tracks where the McLaren is stronger, we just need to go track by track and wait for that famous upgrade that will hopefully give us more performance.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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