Carlos Sainz had another solid weekend in Canada. He got it wrong in qualifying. Halfway through the session, a Spaniard shaking his head looked on as marshall’s wheeled away what they could. Tyres chipped with barrier paint and snapped suspension rods on the left made it difficult though, his Toro Rosso broken after clipping the Wall of Champions. Had Sainz not had the incident in Q2, he would have been in with a shout for making Q3. If he’d improved his Q1 time by the same amount as Kvyat did in the sister Toro Rosso for Q2, then Sainz would have started at least in 11th for Sunday. Instead, he managed to drive his way into the points from 20th on the grid. 9th place is a great result given that it was recovery drive after Saturday’s quali crash.
It’s not just this one-off result that has made the paddock, and bigger teams, take note of El Matador though. The promotion from Toro Rosso to Red Bull for his ex-team-mate Max Verstappen has actually boosted the stock of Carlos Sainz too. Max Verstappen is rightfully labelled an exciting prospect and potential world champion, his debut for Red Bull at the Spanish GP has silenced the doubters of that. Verstappen’s obvious talent and his input at Red Bull so far only enlarges the abilities of Carlos Sainz. It makes us realize fully their abilities at Toro Rosso last year.
In 2015, Verstappen finished the season with 49 points and Sainz finished with 18. But those figures don’t really show an accurate comparison of the two young drivers. The final driver standings are ignorant to mechanical failures, in particular the three power unit failures and one electronics failure that ended Sainz’ chance of points on four occasions.
Their hot-lap pace can be compared by taking only the qualifying sessions in which neither driver had mechanical issues and crashes. In 2015, Sainz was on average only 0.025 seconds shy of Verstappen’s qualifying pace. When last year’s Red Bull duo are compared in the same light, Kvyat was more than 10 times further from his team-mate Ricciardo, with a 0.261 gap average.
If Verstappen is the benchmark, then there’s no surprise that Sainz is receiving attention from bigger teams. But the 22-year-old has recently committed himself to the Red Bull system, having recently told Sky’s Johnny Herbert,
“Many people talk about Mercedes and Ferrari but my first world championship – I would like it to be with Red Bull because they’ve given me so much. Driving a Red Bull is my target and it will always be, I cannot hide that I would have liked it to be me. But in my plans, and the career they put to me, I was never jumping into Red Bull in the fifth race of the season.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 13, 2016
But with Red Bull looking like they’ll hang on to Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen for the foreseeable future, the door might open up elsewhere for Sainz towards the end of the season.