Carlos Sainz guest blog: "It was like telling me I’m not as good as Max Verstappen when I believe I am"
In one of his occasional guestblogs for JA on F1, Toro Rosso F1 driver Carlos Sainz discusses his second season in Formula 1, the impact of Red Bul...
In one of his occasional guestblogs for JA on F1, Toro Rosso F1 driver Carlos Sainz discusses his second season in Formula 1, the impact of Red Bull's decision to promote Max Verstappen to the top team rather than him, and the ways in which the sport’s new owners could try to attract new fans.
When Max Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull, people tend to forget that was also a tough period for me, not only for Daniil Kvyat. For me it was difficult to understand not being the chosen one.
And in some ways, the results I scored in Barcelona, Monaco, Canada consecutively was to say to Red Bull ‘you’ve got it, not wrong, but you could have also chosen me. I’m really angry about this and I also want to get to that position.’ For me it was like telling me I’m not as good as Max when I believe I am as good or better, as every Formula 1 driver does. So it was a tough period for me but I said, ‘it’s my time to prove what I can do.'
The next three events were the three best races of my life in Formula 1 straight after a bad moment, which was also important for me and since then I’ve built momentum and developed it into a situation that is helping me a lot.
It’s a reference and when you see his results and what he is doing with a top car, it just tells me why can I not get the same? I understand that the situation with Red Bull is completely difficult, they have two very good drivers and obviously it’s not an ideal situations, but I think Red Bull, my environment, everyone needs to understand that my target in the end is to be a world champion and to start fighting for those podiums and those wins - that is what I am really here for.
Maybe its optimistic, but it’s the nature of everyone Formula 1 driver – you just want to win, especially after this period of time that I’m going through now. I feel I am at the peak and I’m ready to take that next step.
When the team changed there was a bit of a reshuffle, but once you put your helmet on, the pressure you have when driving is exactly the same having Max Verstappen as a teammate and having Daniil Kvyat or Fernando Alonso or whoever. There is one guy in the other car that you need to beat, who you need to out qualify, who you need to out-race and the pressure I feel when I put my helmet on is exactly the same with Dani as with Max because I have exactly the same need.
Outside of the race environment maybe things changed a bit and became a bit calmer, but that pressure and that situation in the team when Max was there was something I was learning from. It was something that was also making me stronger because in the end when you have a rivalry that’s where you learn. It’s where Lewis and Fernando learned all those same situations from, Senna and Prost too – it’s those situations where you become more mature, you learn from the other, you learn how to react.
People might say my first season in F1 was a tough period of time but it was a learning phase for me and was something that I was using for my own personal experience.
Having gone through that, I feel like I’m a better competitor, a driver that understands how to deal with different situations inside the team better, how to deal with people – even if it is good or bad. So it was a tough period of time but a very interesting one too.
I’ve learned that as you mature and you get your own name in F1 sometimes you need to be a bit more straightforward in how you tell things and say things. When I got to F1, my attitude was, ‘thank you for giving me this seat, I pray for you just to give me that steering wheel’. Now, when you start to make your name, you definitely have to be more of a grown up and more of a leader of the team, which is something that I also feel has helped me.
Why 2016 is a much better season, despite a lack of straight line speed!
My first season in Formula 1 was a good year, where I personally did very well as a rookie, but it was very difficult for me to show it outside of the team. Inside, they knew my potential as I managed to show it, but for the people outside Toro Rosso or outside Red Bull it was difficult to tell them it was a good year just looking at the bare results.
This year finally I managed to prove a little bit more to them in different ways, but the main change has been our improved reliability this year. The fact that we are not having so many reliability problems and I was scoring points finishes on a regular basis was just a simple factor, it clicked.
Last year, people may have seen that I was running in eighth in Austria or at Silverstone but then retired and after two races they would forget how well it was going and just see I retired. Now if you look at the results, the results stay there in the championship table.
We could have even scored a podium in Monaco if things had worked out differently and we could have done a lot more things than what we have done this year. Singapore was another missed opportunity too.
But still, even with those, I am very pleased about this year and the results, and the way they have been achieved because our consistency this year has been really good. In qualifying too there has been an improvement. Every time I feel I have been pretty much nailing the car, except for in Canada where I tried to get a bit more than the car was capable of. But overall, there have been few mistakes and consistency was what I was looking for this year.
I am contracted to Red Bull and Toro Rosso for 2017, and I was very pleased to get that sorted out so early in the season. Usually, Red Bull doesn’t get to do those sort of things in Baku in the middle of the year, they normally do it in November at the last minute. It was an exception that they did with me, which I feel extremely proud of, and it just means I am doing things right.
I have heard some very positive things from people in the paddock and I think maybe 80 per cent of that is down to my performances this year. Obviously there are still four races to go but I think the way I approached the change of the team internally after Barcelona also had a lot to do with that.
Life away from the track
I’m still living in the same way with my flat in London. I doubt that will change in the near future because it gives me stability and I have a good personal life there. Living in London is good for when I have to go to the Red Bull simulator in Milton Keynes and I always have a base there.
I live half an hour from Heathrow, which is an airport that flies everywhere in the world where I quickly get to after conducting simulator work or for going to races. London is an international city, but I also have a little base in Madrid in Spain that helps me to see my friends and family. At the moment, and with 21 races also confirmed for next year, it just shows how hectic Formula 1 can get and how important it is for your personal life to remain stable.
Give F1 fans heroes they can look up too
One thing that has changed since I last did one of these columns is that Liberty Media has begun the process of buying F1. There are clearly some problems with some aspects of the sport, but my job is to drive F1 cars not to discover why young people don’t watch F1, but hopefully this will be addressed and this should be the main target because attracting new fans would create a lot of supporters for many years.
Nowadays, people’s reaction to F1 is different. When I ask my friends if they watched last weekend’s race some of them will say 'yes' and some of them tell me 'no'. For me, that is unbelievable when you have a friend racing in F1! Ten years ago, you could tell a 20-year-old “your friend is racing in F1” and they wouldn’t even believe it. These days you might say “your friend is racing in F1 and one race he even fought for a podium in Monaco” and they’ll say they didn’t see it. Why? ‘I was away with the family or having dinner with them at lunchtime,’ they’ll say, because they have a lot going on.
Going back 15 years, people would switch on the TV and a 20-year-old would be tuning in to see their heroes. When you are between 10-to-20, to 25-years-old, what you need in life is something like an idol, a figure, a hero. Nowadays, F1 drivers, we don’t create that sense any more in a younger audience.
There is the digital market potential, and there are the social networks that can help a lot, but mainly and primarily I would say that that hero figure is what you need to create in young people. Give them people to look up too. At the moment, and I don’t know why, an F1 driver doesn’t give that image any more.
There is no doubt that there is also a generational change going on in F1. There are many people that are already retiring or maybe have two or three years left and now is a good window to try and pick up from them and show that it is now my time – I’m the next one coming to fight for world championships.
Hopefully people see this and I keep showing what I can do every race weekend and the decisions come that help me get there. It’s what I am here for at the end of the day; I am fighting for that little step up that I want to do soon.Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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