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Is Formula 1 set for a battle royale between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz?

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Is Formula 1 set for a battle royale between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz?
Mar 22, 2016, 6:07 PM

The Toro Rosso team orders row that erupted during the Australian Grand Prix has raised the prospect of a season-long battle between Max Verstappen...

The Toro Rosso team orders row that erupted during the Australian Grand Prix has raised the prospect of a season-long battle between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen was audibly frustrated throughout the final third of the Melbourne race as a miscommunication over strategy and a delay at his final pitstop dropped him behind Sainz.

The Dutch driver repeatedly swore over his team radio and asked to be allowed past his teammate as the pair battled Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. Sainz was told he had to push or let Verstappen by.

Max Vestappen Carlos Sainz

Although pair both passed Palmer eventually, in the closing stages of the race Verstappen hit Sainz’s rear wheel at Turn 15 and spun before recovering to finish tenth, 1.2s adrift behind the Spaniard.

Verstappen, who had started from a career best fifth place, described the race as a very disappointing and a missed opportunity to capitalise on the pace the team has gained with its 2015 Ferrari power unit.

He said: “You could hear how upset I was. It's just a very disappointing race in general - a lost opportunity.

Max Vestappen

"If you see Grosjean and Haas finishing sixth in their first race, we could have done much better than that.

"The start was good, the first pitstop was good, but we had a bit of a miscommunication for the second stop, and from there it got very difficult."

Verstappen – “Normally I should be miles ahead”

Max Vestappen

When asked if Sainz’s refusal to allow him through meant any future team orders would be ignored by the pair, Verstappen explained that it made no difference to him what the situation was as he expected to be “miles ahead” of Sainz.

He said: “To be honest I don't know and I don't care. Normally I should be miles ahead. It should be fine."

Sainz not bothered by “healthy rivalry”

When asked what he made of the contact with his teammate, Sainz explained that he was not upset, as it had not had any impact on his race result.

Carlos Sainz

Speaking to Autosport, he said: “In the touch with Max, he hit me from behind. It can happen, I have no problem with that. It didn't damage my race. Nothing to complain about."

The Spanish driver also described his relationship with Verstappen as “a healthy rivalry” despite the team orders controversy.

He said: "I think it is a healthy rivalry. At least from my side I have absolutely no issues with anyone."

Tost unimpressed with lost points

XPB.cc Franz Tost

Toro Rosso’s team principal, Franz Tost, explained that the decision to pit Sainz first, which incensed Verstappen, was a result of the front locking the Spaniard was experiencing when the race resumed after the red flag stoppage. He also described how the team was not ready for Verstappen’s final stop.

He said: “Carlos had a lot of front locking. Therefore we called him for an early pit stop. We changed our strategy and sent him out on medium tyres.

“Within the next three laps also Max came into the pits, but the team was not prepared for this stop, as we did not call him. Therefore he lost seven seconds, which put him in 12th position.”

Tost would not be drawn on any animosity between his two drivers and he reckoned the most disappointing aspect of the Australian event for his team was that the promising pace its 2016 car had demonstrated in qualifying meant the race had to go down as a missed chance to score heavily.

He said: “This result is very disappointing for us, as we had the speed to finish in a much better position. The only positive aspect is the knowledge that the STR11 is very competitive.”

Max Vestappen Carlos Sainz

Battle for supremacy

This is the second time Verstappen and Sainz have fallen out over team orders. At last year’s Singapore Grand Prix, the Dutchman ignored an instruction to let his teammate through as they battled Force India’s Sergio Perez.

After the 2015 race in Singapore, a JAonF1 poll revealed that almost 80 per cent of readers who took part in the vote backed Verstappen’s refusal to move over for Sainz.

In Australia, Verstappen was clearly aggrieved that the team allowed Sainz to pit before him and the delay at his pitstop exacerbated the situation as he came out behind the Spaniard and could not find a way back past.

Max Vestappen Carlos Sainz

But the manner of his radio messages and his post-race comments suggests that the 18-year-old and Sainz could be on a collision course in a battle for supremacy at Toro Rosso throughout 2016.

There is also the prospect of seats becoming available elsewhere on the F1 grid, including the senior Red Bull team, at the end of the year, and both young drivers will be keen to show they have what it takes to flourish at a bigger team.

Max Vestappen Carlos Sainz

Has the latest Toro Rosso spat changed your opinion of F1’s youngest ever driver? Or was Sainz wrong to ignore team orders in Australia? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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