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New Carlos Sainz Guest Blog: How I got to F1, where I live now and how I relax

Here on JA on F1 our goal has always been to bring the fans closer to the sport and one of the best ways to do that is to get an insight into the l...

New Carlos Sainz Guest Blog: How I got to F1, where I live now and how I relax

Here on JA on F1 our goal has always been to bring the fans closer to the sport and one of the best ways to do that is to get an insight into the life of a modern Formula 1 driver.

Here, in his second guest blog for JA on F1, Carlos Sainz, the 21 year old Toro Rosso driver explains how he got on the Red Bull junior programme, how he balanced his schoolwork with racing and where he lives today.

I signed for the Red Bull junior programme in September 2009 when I’d just turned 15. I was still at school and I planned to remain at in my studies until I was 18 as my Dad wanted me to do that and Helmut Marko agreed with him.

I first came on Helmut’s radar when I was karting. Back then I battled Daniil Kvyat, Nick de Vries – now a McLaren reserve driver in 3.5 – and Raffaele Marciello for two or three years and we were the four top guys of the European scene. We got on and I had a good relationship with the three of them. But it was still a good, tough competition – there were always touches but it was still respectful.

Carlos Sainz

At the 2009 European championship de Vries won, with me second, Kvyat third and Marciello fourth. After that result, Helmut agreed to test both Kvyat and myself.

In the end, we both got a call from Helmut and Antonio Ferrari and we went to a track in Italy to do our first ever test in a Formula BMW. If we were successful we knew what was coming. We met there and it was the first time in a Formula car for both of us and we both did a very good job and that’s how we got into the program. Of my other two karting rivals, Marciello is a Ferrari junior and de Vries is the same with McLaren, which obviously shows those were some good karting years!

Up until I joined Red Bull I had been racing with no pressure. But once you sign with the Red Bull junior team, all of a sudden, you can see that your dream is actually a reality. It means that if you do well you are going to get your prize and that is to be a Formula 1 driver. But only if you win. That creates pressure.

But I said to myself: “look what Sebastian Vettel did, look what Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi all did – now it’s my turn to achieve that.” All of a sudden everything changes, but that made me a much more mature guy, more focused with only one target and with just one mission: getting to F1.

But first I had to finish school as Helmut and my Dad wanted. I managed to never repeat a year and always passed every exam, admittedly with not very good grades but still they were passes.

Balancing work as junior racing driver with school:

I actually did Formula BMW, Formula Renault and Formula 3 while going to school and they were the toughest years of my life so far. I went to school in Madrid so I’d arrive back home from a race weekend on a Sunday night and instead of going to sleep and even though I’d be knackered from the travelling and from the race, I had to study all night. Sometimes I’d even stay awake all night until my alarm went off at seven as I’d have to go directly to an exam because I knew that during the weekend I hadn’t been able to study.

Every race weekend, it didn’t matter if the race was good or bad, if I had won or not, I had to stay awake and study. This affected me a lot and it was and very difficult.

Carlos Sainz

As I was finishing my last year of school I was racing a really tough championship: Formula 3. I had 22 races that year and it was the most difficult year of school, the last one when you get your grades to go to university. I remember that I started leading the Formula 3 championship in my rookie campaign and little by little I saw that the team was not developing a lot, but that I was also getting so tired. I could feel I had less and less energy as the year went on. I felt like I couldn’t go to train and sometimes I only just made it on flights after finishing exams in a rush. It felt like I had two main jobs because my father was telling me if I didn’t pass school I was finished with racing!

At school my best subject was literature and that was the only topic I really liked. The rest were all about studying, not enjoying and I had to push myself to the limit just to get a five out of ten.

But completing those studies was really important to me. Being a racing driver is not just about being fast, it’s also about being intelligent and creating the best image you can to show to the people. You need to have a decent culture, as you never know when you will need that knowledge. As a driver, sometimes you might have go for dinner with a sponsor or someone important and in that situation you can’t just talk about cars, if they’re interested in history, you have to know your history, or if they want to talk about economics, you’ve got to know about economics.

In the end, getting a good education has helped me to be a more open-minded guy and if I have to go for a dinner with a sponsor they well see that I can do more things than just drive a car.

Learning to switch off and gaining independence:

What do I do to switch off? Whenever I need a break I go to Majorca; it’s the best place for me to switch off. It’s where I went on my summer holidays as a kid and it’s the best place to relax because I can go cycling, which I love, and it’s something awesome to do in Majorca. My friends all go there in August, and all my family too.

Carlos Sainz

A typical day there is: wake up, go for a cycle, spend the afternoon at the beach with all my family and then later I go with my friends to do some wakeboarding, have dinner with them, have a drink and go back home. That’s what disconnecting is actually about for me. But after two days, I could get back on a plane again; I’m back on it.

At the moment I live on my own near the centre of London in Chelsea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m living in the smallest flat in Chelsea it’s not like I’ve bought a massive house there!

I decided to live in London because Heathrow is reasonably close and Milton Keynes and the Red Bull simulator are just an hour-and-a-half away and that is where I spend the most time when I’m not racing.

I’ve found a very good compromise, as there is a great life in London for a 21 year-old. It’s not like going to Switzerland and being there for the taxes but being alone for the rest of your life! I’d find that quite sad and a bit depressing to do so I decided London was best.

Carlos Sainz

I’ve got a couple of friends in the city but most of them are in Madrid, where I still prefer to go if I have time. But I knew I had to get independence. I did that shortly after I finished school, when I went to live alone in Milton Keynes for two years. I’ve got to know the UK, I saw it was not that bad at all and after a few years I decided to move down south to London and for now, I like it here a lot.
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