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Renault F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr has a go at rally on Monte Carlo

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Renault F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr has a go at rally on Monte Carlo
Jan 29, 2018, 10:51 AM

It's a curiosity that Carlos Sainz grew up the son of a rally champion, but chose to compete in single seater track racing instead.

It's a curiosity that Carlos Sainz grew up the son of a rally champion, but chose to compete in single seater track racing instead.

Often sons of famous fathers follow in their footsteps, but in Carlos' case his father was so successful - a two time world champion - and so strong in rally, that the son clearly wanted to carve his own path.

So there is a certain poignancy about his first taste of a rally car on a real stage with co-driver and pace notes, something he tried this weekend on the final stage of the Monte Carlo rally.

Sainz, 23, who transferred to the Renault F1 team in the final step of the 2017 season to replace Jolyon Palmer, drove a Renault Mégane R.S in the guise of a VIP course car to take on the 13.58km final stage through the Alpes-Maritimes above Monaco.

Unlike Robert Kubica, who almost severed an arm in a rally at this time of year back in 2011, when a Renault works F1 driver, Sainz was not competing, merely 'demonstrating'.

“That was very special. I have dreamt about doing this a lot of times in my life and now thanks to Renault it has come true. I have always wanted to do a rally with a co-driver, pace notes and a good pace and I loved it.

"My dad just told me to take it carefully, but I had a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone for the opportunity.”

Sainz Sr, 55, is on a roll having just won the gruelling Dakar rally in a Peugeot over the New Year period. He is an ever present in the racing life of his son, present at most of the F1 Grands Prix and he played a significant role in his son's transfer to Renault.

This season will be an important one for Sainz Jr, who now has Nico Hulkenberg as a team mate, a very good benchmark as a driver who is consistent and highly regarded, but who has fallen just short of landing a top team drive.

He is hoping to build together with Renault into a top driver, as the French manufacturer invests heavily in its return to the shape end of F1.

If Sainz is going to make it as one of the top drivers in F1, which is rookie season alongside Max Verstappen suggests he is capable of, then he needs to beat Hulkenberg this season.

It's one of three team-mate duels that I'm really looking forward to in 2018. The other two are Bottas & Hamilton, where Bottas needs to raise his game and consistency to have a career going forward; Ocon & Perez, where Ocon should put clear air between himself and Perez if he is made of the right stuff and is on a trajectory to being a champion.

Another aspect that will be interesting will be whether he finishes ahead of fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the championship. Both men will be powered by the same Renault engine, but with McLaren bullishly predicting that they will be ahead of the works team, this could be quite an exciting on track battle.

We had a taste of it several times last season and although the pair are friends and Alonso has been very supportive of Sainz, in roughly equal machinery that should be a great fight.

Alonso's Daytona 24 hours adventure, incidentally did not go particularly smoothly, the car wasn't among the fastest and after a puncture and brake issues the team was unable to compete for victory,

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Sainz path forward from there could be to stay with Renault and trust in them to become a championship level team or he may find himself recalled to Red Bull Racing if Daniel Ricciardo leaves at the end of 2018. His contract has that clause in it.

That would be less attractive in two ways; the team will be very much Verstappen's by then and there was friction the last time the pair raced together, plus they don't have clarity on their engine supply going forward.

Sainz was on the list at Ferrari, behind Verstappen and Ricciardo over the last couple of years but they now seem to be in a position where they will replace Raikkonen at the end of 2018 with either Ricciardo or Charles Leclerc, depending on results and other factors.

All F1 Photos: LAT Images, [Rally images: Renault Sport]

What kind of season do you think Carlos Sainz will have in 2018? Leave you comments and thoughts about the Spaniard in the box below
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