Sainz thriving in supportive McLaren environment - Brown
A lack of ambiguity over his future has made McLaren an ideal environment for Carlos Sainz according to CEO Zak Brown, who said that the Spaniard prefers the stability offered by McLaren to the 'uncertainty' at Toro Rosso, where he made his F1 debut.
Sainz, who left Toro Rosso mid-season to replace Jolyon Palmer at Renault from the 2017 US Grand Prix, was one of a number of drivers in the Red Bull roster to be pre-emptively shuffled. Others include Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, who were swapped in the 2019 summer break – while Max Verstappen replaced Daniil Kvyat midway through 2016 to win the Spanish GP on his Red Bull debut.
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Speaking recently at Autosport International, Brown said: "Carlos has been outstanding. I think he'd been living under one-year contracts in the whole Red Bull-Toro Rosso environment."
To underline their confidence in Sainz, who joined the team for 2019 and finished sixth in the championship, McLaren were quick to retain both him and rookie team mate Lando Norris, doing so before July’s British Grand Prix.
"Obviously [Red Bull are a] fantastic team," continued Brown, "but they can be a bit rough on their drivers and I think Carlos is a driver that needs to know he's got a team behind him and the next race might not be his last race, which is a little bit of the environment that is created over there [at Red Bull and Toro Rosso] sometimes."
Yet, it was a gamble to take on Norris for 2019 admitted Brown - but one that paid off almost instantly.
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"I think there was some risk with it, Lando being the youngest British driver. He's had such a stellar career every step of the way. It really clinched it for us when he did his Free Practice 1s - he was extremely impressive. Also when he did the 24 Hours of Daytona [in January 2018] with Fernando [Alonso] as his team mate we were able to see how that went and he didn't leave anything behind. There was debate as to actually who was quicker!
"He stepped up to the plate. The one for me when I went 'Yep, he's ready', was when he did his first Free Practice 1 in Formula 1 [at the 2018 Belgian GP]. He was as relaxed as when I'd seen him on the grid of a Formula Renault race.
"He wasn't kind of having this moment of 'I'm in Fernando Alonso's car, here I am'. I think the first session maybe had even been wet and, you know, he was cool. And he had the speed right away."
With significant shake-ups at McLaren for 2020 – including a management reshuffle – the team are hoping for results beyond the top four of the championship. But it's yet to be seen just how big a jump in performance the MCL35, which will launch on February 13, will provide.