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Exclusive Carlos Sainz Jr Q&A: I can thrive at Toro Rosso

04 Feb 2015

While Toro Rosso have helped a number of drivers break into Formula One racing in recent years, not all have been able to secure long-term drives at the sport's highest level. But while that dynamic only adds to the pressure on Carlos Sainz Junior's shoulders ahead of his rookie season, the Spaniard insists that he has the mentality, ability and expertise to flourish - starting at Jerez, where he has already clocked up more than two full race-distances in his first two days of testing...

Q: Carlos, you had a pretty good day on Tuesday… 
Carlos Sainz Junior:
Yes, it was very nice. Doing 137 laps was awesome. Doing two race distances - that is demanding for car and driver, and we've both passed the test!

Q: Nevertheless, you've been thrown into the water and are supposed to swim – meaning you have to bring results. Are you worried about your lack of experience in an F1 car?
No, no worries at all. Sure it means pressure - but a kind of pressure I've had all my life, or at least since I joined the Red Bull Junior team. There you have the pressure of performing, of winning all the time. And the biggest pressure anyway comes from myself, so outside pressure is welcomed.

Q: So you are sure you are able to swim?
I will! Number one thing in this environment is: you have to have faith in yourself. Without that it is impossible to survive here. So I definitely believe I can swim!

Q: Last year's post-season test in Abu Dhabi saw Max Verstappen behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso on both days - but you were announced only days afterwards. Why not earlier so you had a chance to lay your hands on the Toro Rosso before the 2015 season?
Yes, the timing was a bit unfortunate. Of course I would have loved to run a whole day in Abu Dhabi - but in those days I was fighting for the cockpit so in the end I was happy to be announced at all! And now I am finally here. 

Q: What experience can you show in an F1 car?
182 laps. 45 on Sunday, 137 today. That's not a bad increase. 

Q: How about your technical understanding? There is a saying that these cars need smarter drivers...
Yep, I think I will do well in that respect. My technical understanding is not a point of worry. I have five years of experience in single seater cars so I know how a Formula car works. Now I have to step up for a Formula One car - and that is manageable. Now the focus is to have a look at the tyres - and do many, many more laps. 

Q: How was it on your first outing? Was it an overwhelming experience, as one would assume?
The first lap was very emotional. But after that lap you throw all emotions behind and focus on what you are here for: to learn.

Q: At nearly 21 years old, you are already almost out of the window that Toro Rosso has right now with their drivers. How did you convince them that you're still the one?
Well, I will be 21 in September - that's still a long way away. I have just become the youngest champion to win the Formula Renault 3.5 title, so age - or being over-aged - is not an issue. 

Q: It is no secret that some in the team would have preferred an experienced driver alongside a rookie. Does that mean pressure in capital letters?
It means that they believe in my technical feedback - that I can contribute - even as a rookie. 

Q: How did you prepare? Did you spend much time in the Red Bull simulator?
For sure it's a bit different. F1 is a step up so you look at different things - you have to be lighter, you have to have more endurance - but nothing really dramatically different. And contrary to what people might think: not much in the simulator so far. That will come after this test, and before the first race. 

Q: It's possible, if not likely, that you will have two seasons with Toro Rosso. Have you made up a career schedule? Two years is too short to not have a good plan...
Yes, I have: I will have a short-term approach. I prefer not to start thinking how long I will last at Toro Rosso - I prefer to think how my first race will be, how Melbourne will be. At the end of the year I will have time to think 'future'.

Q: Like all of this year's rookies, you have a strong racing background. Does that help?
Yes, it helps. But it also has disadvantages. When I started go-karting I was always referred to as 'the son of Carlos Sainz' - it was never me. Now at this stage of my life it helps to have a double world champion at my side, even if it was a completely different racing category.

Q: As you mentioned, your dad was incredibly successful in rallying - so why have you decided to go F1 and not step into his footprints?
That is very simple to answer: I was nine years old when there was the Fernando Alonso boom in Spain, so I started to watch F1 a lot. And when I saw Fernando win – saw him on the podium - I knew that I wanted this for me. 

Q: Rookies are allowed to dream: what is your F1 dream? 
To be a champion one day. And every day I will work to being a better driver, a better professional to one day achieve that goal. Spain is ready for a second name in the F1 annals!