Marko: Sainz is fast, but he's no Verstappen!

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has no regrets about not retaining Carlos Sainz in the energy drink’s bull pen, insisting the Spaniard is fast but “not a Verstappen”.

Sainz was a pure product of Red Bull’s Junior Team who rose through the junior ranks to graduate to Formula 1 in 2015 with Toro Rosso.

In his third year with the Faenza-based squad, Sainz was loaned to Renault, undertaking a full season with the French squad in 2018 before Marko released him from his contract with Red Bull, a decision which led to his move to McLaren for 2019.

Given Sainz’s good results with the Woking-based outfit and the disappointing performance of Pierre Gasly which led to last year’s mid-season swap with Alex Albon, one could be led to believe that Red Bull now views dismissing the Spaniard as a mistake. But Marko harbors no regrets.

“Carlos was confronted with one Max Verstappen,” Marko explained, speaking in his home town of Graz to Motorsport.com.

“The choice [in 2016] then actually went between the two: who do we promote? And then you get to the heart of it.

“Carlos is fast – otherwise we would not have picked him up at all – but he is not a Verstappen.”

Marko’s choice of betting on Verstappen by swapping the Dutchman with Daniil Kvyat after just four races in 2016 was validated by Verstappen’s sensational debut triumph with Red Bull Racing in Spain.

For Sainz, his former teammate’s win was likely a tough moment to endure. But Marko believes Red Bull and Sainz made the most of their relationship.

“We helped Carlos in his career and didn’t have to let him go,” added Marko.

“But we made the transition to Renault and later McLaren possible.

“We have a good relationship, but at that particular moment we also had Verstappen in the team and there are differences between them.”

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Norris: Sainz relationship only ‘benefits’ McLaren

Lando Norris believes McLaren’s P4 finish in 2019 was made possible by his strong relationship with team-mate Carlos Sainz.

The duo developed a reputation in their first season together for being the most entertaining duo on the grid, thanks to their strong rapport and array of pranks.

It did lead to some suggestions aimed at Norris though that he didn’t take F1 seriously enough in his rookie year, and while the Briton has said that he is looking to develop a more serious side, he also thinks his relationship with Sainz was key to McLaren securing P4 in the Constructors’ Championship – their best finish since 2012.

Speaking at Autosport International 2020, he said: “We’re both looking at the longer game of ‘if we both want to achieve what we want to achieve, which is to win races, to win championships, the best thing is to work together’.

“We wouldn’t have finished P4 in the championship as a team if we didn’t work as well together as we did last year.

“A big part of what we have achieved is because of how we work together, how we help each other, how we try and help the team.

“At the moment, it’s only benefiting us in every way.

“I hope it continues because I just want to have fun and enjoy it and he does as well.”

McLaren are hoping to continue their progress up the grid in 2020, and Norris says the team are trying to address their cornering issues of 2019 with the new challenger.

“Things aren’t as different as what they were last year,” he said.

“Last year was a completely different car, with a lot of mechanical problems.

“And you don’t always hear about every problem that goes on in a team and in Formula 1. But we were kind of suffering a bit at the beginning of last year.

“And there was a new car. So, we were trying to get as much understanding as we could get.

“Whereas this year’s car is much more of an adaptation from last year. It’s just working on all of the areas.

“I [also] want to say I’m more confident in my own driving, because it’s my second year in Formula 1, so I now feel a lot more confident.

“But also the team has done a very good job and [is] working on, particularly obviously the areas which we were not good [at] last year – that we were quite weak in.

“Which was almost every corner but there’s still more specific corners, which we struggled in.

“So it’s trying to work on those areas and, from the results I’ve seen, it’s looking positive. It’s going in the right direction, but we still need more to be really competitive.”

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Norris resolves to take things more seriously in 2020

Despite a successful maiden season in Formula 1, McLaren’s Lando Norris is determined to change his approach next season by getting more serious about his racing.

The happy, smiling teenager (who turned 20 in November just before the Brazilian Grand Prix) was a breath of fresh air when he arrived in the paddock in March

He went on to out-qualify his experienced team mate Carlos Sainz 11-10 over the course of his rookie campaign, although he came off distinctly second-best when it came to actual race results.

Now that he has a full year of getting to know F1’s iconic circuits under his belt, Norris intends to do significantly better in his sophomore season.

“In some ways I think I’ve been almost been too relaxed, and had too much fun,” he told Autosport magazine.

“Maybe sometimes I’ve pushed it a bit too much in terms of making it too jokey, and not focusing as much as I should.

“When it’s become more serious, I haven’t focused as much as I should do,” he suggested.

He admitted that in his view he had failed to work on all the areas of his driving that he should have done to maintain his momentum into race days.

“It’s been good and I’ve been able to have fun in my first season,” he said. “[But] I think I started to take a little bit for granted.”

For all his smiles and jokes, Norris has frequently been notably hard on himself when he’s made small errors in qualifying or lost positions during the race due to an inevitable lack of experience.

Finding the balance between serious competitiveness while keeping his love for the sport alive will be one of the biggest challenges ahead of him in his second season in F1.

“There’s a compromise,” he acknowledged. “I still just want to have fun sometimes, wear my own jumper, things like that.

“I’ve not just come in and been surrounded by too many serious things and people,” he added. “I think that’s also helped in my ability to work on several things, and to improve as a driver.”

Norris ended the year by being honoured with the fan vote for Rookie of the Year, and credited a warm working relationship with Sainz as one of the key reasons for his success.

“Carlos was a good mentor for me,” he told Motorsport.com. “I learned a lot from him.”

“There are many things that have helped me to do better, that have helped me to beat him in some cases. That is because of what I picked up, thanks to him.

“He was very good himself and was open to helping me,” Norris added. “I tried to give him the same. This was also something good between us last season.

“He was a good person to learn from.”

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Sainz: 2021 a chance for McLaren to return to top

Carlos Sainz believes that the 2021 regulation changes present a “great opportunity” for McLaren to return to the top of the grid.

The Spaniard and McLaren enjoyed an excellent 2019 season, finishing P5 in the Drivers’ Championship and P4 in the Constructors’ Championship respectively, but they are still some way off where the British team used to be.

However, Sainz feels that the wholesale changes to the sport in 2021 can give McLaren the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to change that.

“McLaren might have taken a lot of years to get back on top, but ’21 allows us to create kind of a shortcut to a better position – and we need to take that,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think 2020 is still important because we want to continue the trend, but ’21 is an opportunity”.

Sainz, whose contract expires at the end of 2020, believes it is impossible for the team to be fighting for the Championship next season, but says it’s crucial that the team continue to improve nonetheless.

“I know that next year we’re not going to fight for a world championship, but I know that next year we have a good chance of making another good step, and that good step needs to come little by little,” he said.

“I don’t say we need to do another 1.5-second step like we’ve done from last year to this year, but keep digging those tenths out of the car and just keep the way we’re going at the moment.”

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Sainz clinches P6 on last lap…TV cameras miss it

Carlos Sainz described his last-lap battle with Nico Hulkenberg to claim a vital point as feeling like a fight for the “World Championship” but is disappointed the cameras missed him once again.

The McLaren man went into the last round of 2019 tied on points with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly for P6 in the standings, and with the Frenchman running well adrift at the back after early contact, Sainz knew he needed just one point to take P6.

Standing in his way was Nico Hulkenberg, and in what is his last race in F1 perhaps for good, the German dueled with Sainz on the closing lap for P10 and the last point to be handed out in Abu Dhabi.

A dive down the inside would see Sainz get the job done, and to him that battle felt like he was going for the Championship, rather than ‘best of the rest’ status.

“It was the most exciting final lap I think, it was like a world championship for me,” he told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

“I got close enough to Nico to throw a move into Turn 9, and decided to back out of it and try it in 11, but I didn’t get the run out of 10 that I wanted, so it meant I arrived too late and a bit far behind.

“I saw a gap on the inside, but it was really small, a bit like with [Sergio] Perez, so I said OK, if it worked with Perez, I need to try to make it work with Nico. I threw the move and made it stick.

“It’s crazy, at the end of the championship, we were fighting on the last lap, in the last overtaking opportunity of the track. I made it stick. It hasn’t been an easy race, but I’m very happy with it.”

It isn’t easy to keep an eye on the bigger picture of a race when you’re wrestling an F1 car around the track, but Sainz was very much aware of the situation.

“Yes. I made sure I was aware of it. I knew. Well I could follow on the TV also. I knew Gasly was pretty much out of the race,” he explained.

The TV cameras, though, were not focusing on him…again.

“I’m not going to talk too much about it,”he said when asked about the lack of TV coverage.

“But I think everyone has been talking about this sixth place midfield battle for the whole weekend. And then the fight was down to the last lap and in one of the last corners and still they don’t show it on TV.

“So it’s obviously strange that everyone hypes this sixth place battle, but in the end no one shows it on TV.”

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Sainz wants to stay at McLaren from 2021

Silly season in the driver market for 2021 is set to be the wildest yet, but Carlos Sainz has confirmed already that he plans to stay at McLaren.

The overhaul coming for F1 from 2021 has the potential to shake up the grid, and with driver salaries not included in the cap some high-profile moves are likely.

Add into the mix that almost everyone’s contracts are up after 2020, and it stands to reason that the 2021 driver market will be complete chaos.

However, after enjoying the best season of his F1 career in his first campaign with McLaren, Sainz knows exactly where he wants to be in 2021.

“For as long as I’ve been in this team it’s been a constant upwards curve,” Sainz told Autosport.com.

“That is obviously a very attractive thing to have and not something that you see a lot in Formula 1.

“I am very happy and very proud of what this team is doing.

“It’s obviously very, very early to think about 2021 but it’s not a secret that I’m very happy in this team.

“I think both parties are very happy with each other and at the moment for me there’s nowhere else to look around.”

Sainz scored his first podium in F1 with P3 in Brazil, capping off a season that has earned widespread plaudits for the Spaniard, but he has given credit to Nico Hulkenberg who he partnered at Renault in 2018 as an influence behind his development as a driver.

“The year next to Nico helped me quite a lot to learn things from an experienced driver,” said Sainz.

“Previous to that all my team-mates had one year experience in Formula 1 so actually to have a year next to Nico helped me to learn a couple of new things for myself.

“Coming into McLaren I knew I was ready for the challenge, the way I understand car balance, the way to develop it, the speed that I knew that I had in Toro Rosso and in Renault.

“It was just a matter of getting into this team, feeling comfortable immediately and then the results would take care of themselves.

“There was nothing really that I was afraid of or anything.”

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Sainz: I’ll get better with time at McLaren

Carlos Sainz believes that a driver gets better the longer they spend with one team, and his situation at McLaren is no different.

The Spaniard broke into Formula 1 under the Red Bull banner, partnering Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso before moving to Renault for the closing stages of 2017 and the 2018 campaign.

But this year he broke away from the Red Bull family to sign his first multi-year deal with McLaren, and for the first time in his F1 career he has been able to play a key role in developing the car that he will drive for the following season.

Sainz says it’s this kind of continuity which helps a driver improve over time, citing the likes of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and Sergio Perez at Racing Point as the type of long-standing relationships which he hopes to develop with McLaren.

Asked by Motorsport.com about now being able to develop a car that he will drive, Sainz said: “Yeah, that probably also made the second half of the season with Renault quite weird.

“I was kind of looking forward to joining McLaren in that way, with a two-year deal. I’m a strong believer that the more time a driver spends in one team, the faster that driver becomes with that car.

“That’s a rule that you can see pretty much in every team. You can see it with Max [Verstappen] in Red Bull, that for the longer he’s been in Red Bull he’s just been stronger and stronger, Lewis [Hamilton] with Mercedes he’s been stronger and stronger every year.

“Checo [Sergio Perez] in Racing Point, a more midfield example, that guy knows that Racing Point and that team very well and that helps them execute very strong race weekends.

“I was looking forward to having this in McLaren, and we are already working on the simulator on next year’s car, already developing every weekend and giving ideas to the factory to what do we need for next year’s car.

“Hopefully that will have an impact on next year, the way we drive the car and what we need is very simple. It makes sense as a driver to develop a car for a couple of years.”

McLaren 'never' gave up, first podium in 2,072 days

Sainz has been recognised as the strongest midfield performer of 2019 with his 95 points playing a crucial role in McLaren’s route to P4 in the Constructors’ Championship.

He picked up his first podium in F1 with P3 in Brazil, but things weren’t quite so rosy especially at the start of the season where a run of bad luck plagued the Spaniard.

But that’s another area where the security at McLaren worked in his favour, since he wasn’t this time in such a rush to prove himself like he was at Toro Rosso or Renault.

“My self-confidence and the confidence within the team, and their work approach that we have this year, I’ve been more [focused on] the mid-term project, not so much the short-term and having to perform like I was having to do in Toro Rosso and Renault,” he explained.

“That helped me also to combat those couple of difficult moments in the year, to be a lot more relaxed about it because it was not so much of a rush to prove myself.

“I always have a rush to get good results obviously, but thanks to that mid-term project and the way we’re handling the year and everything, I thought it was easier to overcome them.”

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The youngest F1 podiums: Brazil 2019 sets a new standard

At 22, 23 and 25, Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz now head the list of the youngest F1 podiums after finishing in the top three at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Although Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in third place, joining the Honda-powered drivers on the podium, he was later slapped with a five-second penalty for causing a collision.

He dropped to seventh while McLaren’s Sainz added his name to the list of first time podium finishers along with Gasly.

The Brazilian result broke the youngest podium record set back in 2008 by Sebastian Vettel, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica.

PlanetF1 looks at F1’s five youngest podiums.

5. 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix – 24 years, 7 months, 12 days

Having signed with Renault for his second season in Formula 1, Fernando Alonso claimed pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard was in a league of his own around the revamped Hungaroring, leading by as much as 24s before coming in for his second pit stop.

His gap to Kimi Raikkonen meant he pitted from P1 and rejoined in the lead.

Alonso raced to a comfortable win ahead of the Finn, who was with McLaren, and in doing so became – at the time – the youngest ever driver to win a grand prix.

Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, making for the fifth youngest podium in F1 history.

4. 2008 German Grand Prix – 24 years, 7 months, 1 day

Lewis Hamilton raced to victory at the 2008 German GP, overcoming a strategy error from McLaren to beat Nelson Piquet Jr.

Hamilton was dominating at the Hockenheimring before a Safety Car threw his strategy into chaos.

McLaren didn’t pit him at the time even though his rivals stopped.

That meant Hamilton had to pit under green, dropping from first to fifth.

The Brit carved his way back through the field to take the chequered flag ahead of the one-stopping Piquet Jr.

They were joined on the podium by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.

Lewis-Hamilton-2008-PA

3. 2019 Austrian Grand Prix – 24 years, 5 months, 13 days

After years of Lewis Hamilton versus Sebastian Vettel, the future championship protagonists took centre stage at this year’s Austrian Grand Prix.

As a heatwave swept through Europe, Mercedes found themselves on the back foot, leaving it to Red Bull and Ferrari to fight for the win.

More to the point: Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc looked to be cruising to the win, storming ahead in his SF90 only for Verstappen to put in a late charge.

The youngsters went wheel-to-wheel before Verstappen made his race-winning move, giving Leclerc a little shove off the track as he overtook him for the lead.

Verstappen raced to the victory with Leclerc second.

Both 21 at the time, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas – 29 at the time – raised the average age as he claimed third place.

2. 2008 Italian Grand Prix – 23 years, 11 months, 16 days

Sebastian Vettel made history at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, not only becoming Formula 1’s youngest-ever winner at the time – breaking Alonso’s record set at the 2003 Hungarian GP, but he also claimed what still stands as Toro Rosso’s only grand prix victory.

Vettel secured pole position in the rain on the Saturday, joined on the front row by McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.

Conditions were similar at the start of the Monza race, prompting Race Control to begin proceedings behind the Safety Car.

The Safety Car pulled in at the end of Lap 2 and Vettel led into the first corner.

As the pit stops played out and the drivers swapped their full wet tyres for intermediates, Vettel continued to cycle back to the front to take the victory by 12s ahead of Kovalainen.

At 21 years, 73 days, he became the youngest race winner, a record he lost to Max Verstappen in 2016.

Robert Kubica used a one-stop strategy to work his way onto the podium for BMW-Sauber.

1. 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix – 23 years, 8 months, 23 days

22-year-old Max Verstappen passed reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton twice out on track to win the Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of his former team-mate Pierre Gasly.

At 23 years, 9 months and 10 days Gasly secured his maiden podium result as the Toro Rosso driver crossed the line in second place.

He took full advantage of the chaos in the final few laps to work his way up to P2, taking the chequered flag 0.6s ahead of Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver crossed the line in third place but was later penalised five seconds for crashing into Alexander Albon as he tried to take a position off the Red Bull driver.

Hamilton’s penalty meant Carlos Sainz was promoted to the podium.

But while the McLaren driver may have missed the initial celebration, they later made up for it.

With a combined age of less than 24; Verstappen the youngest at 22 and Sainz the oldest at 25; Sunday’s podium at the Interlagos circuit was a snapshot of Formula 1’s future.

And what a future it could be!

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Rosberg: Sainz is third best driver in F1 right now

Nico Rosberg has put McLaren’s Carlos Sainz within his top four best Formula 1 drivers based on form this season.

Sainz’s impressive season reached new heights at Interlagos after he clinched his first-ever podium of his career, which was McLaren’s first since Australia in 2014.

The Spaniard climbed up from the very back of the grid to P4 on Sunday, but that became P3 after the FIA issued a post-race five-second penalty to Lewis Hamilton for causing a collision with Alex Albon.

Rosberg reckons that Sainz has been a top four driver all season long, but is now up to third in his estimations ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“Sainz is closing off an unbelievable season,” Rosberg said via his YouTube channel.

“I’ve always said he is in the top four of best drivers of the year together with Leclerc. So Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen and Hamilton.

“At the moment I would maybe put Hamilton first, maybe him and Verstappen on a par after this race [in Brazil], maybe Hamilton slightly ahead.

“But Sainz is now third, just in front of Leclerc.

“He’s just done an unbelievable season, so many points in that McLaren, so great. He’s done an absolutely fantastic job.”

Sainz’s podium finish also helped McLaren seal the best of the rest spot in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of their engine suppliers, Renault.

Which drivers would make up your current top four?

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McLaren ‘never gave up’, first podium in 2,072 days

McLaren are celebrating the team’s first podium result in 2,072 days after Carlos Sainz raced from 20th on the grid to third at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Sainz failed to set a lap time in qualifying at the Interlagos circuit, his MCL34 suffering an ignition wiring problem.

Set to start the grand prix from the very back of the grid, McLaren fitted his car with a brand new power unit that Sainz put to good use.

The Spaniard was up to 15th place after the first lap and, 70 laps later, crossed the lined in fourth place.

That became third when Lewis Hamilton was penalised for crashing into Alexander Albon.

Sainz made a belated visit to the podium, trophy and champagne in hand as he celebrated his maiden F1 podium.

“We woke up this morning after a difficult Saturday with a clear commitment to never give up and fight back,” said team boss Andreas Seidl.

“The achievement this year together with the podium today is the perfect motivation for all of us to keep working hard in order to score podiums again in the future for McLaren based on our own outright performance.”

McLaren clinched fourth place in the Constructors’ standings with Sunday’s result as they are 49 points clear of Renault with a maximum of 44 still in play.

CEO Zak Brown added: “Our first podium since Australia 2014 and P4 secured in the championship.

“Great teamwork today and all season. Our best result since 2012.

“Thank you to every single one of our people, our superb drivers and our incredible fans.”

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