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Carlos Sainz Q&A: I've proved I'm no F1 misfit

03 Sep 2015

Carlos Sainz might not be able to match the media hype surrounding his Toro Rosso team mate Max Verstappen, but on track the story has been very different - eye-catching performances, particularly on Saturdays, a points finish in his home race, and the fact he’s often beating hero Fernando Alonso. No wonder Sainz says he’s already proved his doubters wrong and is revelling in shedding his 'Jr' moniker...

Q: Carlos, you are 17 points behind your team mate and fellow rookie Max Verstappen. That's quite a difference - how do you cope with that situation?

Carlos Sainz: Knowing that it is not my fault! (laughs) It's as easy as that. I would have a similar amount of points if it weren't for the last four races. Why? Because in Austria I was P9, in Silverstone I was P9, in Hungary I was P5 and in Spa I should have started from P10. So we do have good pace. And what I've just said means that there were many points going into the bin!

Q: You have had five DNF's from 11 races, and Max four. How do rookies handle these reliability issues? 

CS: That is not easy, as the real thing a rookie needs is to finish races - to get mileage, to learn! So this number of DNFs is not the easiest thing in the world to swallow - but in the end I am very lucky to have a team that has a huge experience with rookie drivers. And I can say that even though I am retiring quite a lot I am always learning. Also, good qualifying displays help to put unfinished races behind us. And of course the team are also not happy with that amount of retirements, so they will do everything to find solutions. Franz is not somebody who appreciates shortened races!

Q: How hard is it to compete against 'wonderboy'? 

CS: Well, in the end he is 'wonderboy' for the press. Inside the team he is not wonderboy - he is just a team mate, and I have had many team mates in my life. That's all.

Q: So you don't feel the pressure? Or that he is treated differently in the team?

CS: No pressure, and we both definitely get treated equally, that is for sure! All this 'wonderboy' talk is made by the media - there is no favouritism in the team. And that is what is important for me, not the media hype.

Q: You are in F1 because you've triumphed many times in other series. How do you cope with the fact there is no more winning or podiums?

CS: Of course you start to forget the podium feeling and the taste of champagne a bit. In 2014 I experienced both a lot - but now realistically we know that finishing eighth is like a race win for us, so you just need to shift your approach a bit. You have just to recondition yourself slightly differently.

Q: What would you say was your best race so far? For what reason?

CS: I think in Barcelona I did a very good race. In Monaco I did a very good race. Also in Malaysia and Canada - even if I didn't get points I beat Daniel Ricciardo, last year's winner, fair and square! But in the end I would pick Barcelona. My home race was something very special. I enjoyed it immensely: I qualified fifth - imagine that!

Q: Is being a Formula One driver what you had expected it to be?

CS: It's much better. And to be honest I feel less pressure than I had expected - probably because things are going so well. After the first half of the season a lot of pressure has been taken off my shoulders - I have proven that I am F1 material when people had thought otherwise. So life is a lot easier now. Actually this process already started in Australia where in my first race I made it into Q3. From there on, little by little, I've been able to exhale! It was good to prove that it was not stupid to pick me! (laughs)

Q: And the Jr. has disappeared…

CS: Yep, that was my main target. (laughs)

Q: Your hero is Fernando Alonso. How does it feel to see him struggling so much? What does that teach you about the unpredictability of F1?

CS: It is strange, yes. I still would like to see him fight for the championship - if not me then him. I still believe he is the best driver in the world, and it is really painful to see him in that state. But sometimes life is that way. I am convinced that he will be fighting for the championship again - whether with McLaren or not I don't know. He deserves the chance and he will find it. The strange thing is that many times I am ahead of him! I had never imagined that I would encounter him on the track as often as I have.

Q: What is your opinion on closed cockpits? As somebody new in the sport with hopefully many more years to go, would you favour it?

CS: I think there will be a solution. At that speed when something breaks and flies towards you a helmet clearly is not protection enough. Whether it is a closed cockpit or some other kind of protection, the FIA will sure look for a solution. We all want it safe.

Q: Monza's legend as the temple of speed is long established - but it might not suit the Renault engine this weekend. Is it still cool to race here?

CS: Monza for sure is not our perfect track. But Spa wasn't either - and we didn't do too badly there. Positive thinking is what we need - and a good compromise with the aero, as with the engine we cannot to anything. Maybe that will bring us to a not so bad place. Yes, we do have a Monza package, but not any upgrades.

Q: What's the best part of the track for you?

CS: Ascari. Before it was Parabolica, but now with the new tarmac it is not what it used to be. Ascari still has the 'old taste' - fast and smooth.