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Thinking big for 2017 - exclusive Carlos Sainz Q&A

25 Aug 2016

While former team mate Max Verstappen has been making the headlines, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz has been quietly but confidently racking up strong results of his own - so much so that the Italian squad have already decided to retain him for next year, when Sainz hopes the much-talked-about regulation changes will provide him a huge opportunity…

Q: Carlos, Toro Rosso have signed you for another season. They must be pretty impressed - rarely do they keep drivers more than two years…

Carlos Sainz: I think I can be quite proud, because usually if they decide to sign you they do this at the very last moment in November. But they’d made their decision already in Austria, probably because my first half of the season was very good. I do have to thank Toro Rosso and (Red Bull motorsport consultant) Helmut Marko, as their decision means that they put a lot of trust in me and the only way to pay this back is with good results.

Q: How did you convince them that you deserve another year?

CS: Just by doing what I know I can deliver. Also the unlucky things stopped happening to me, although I did not change anything, and good results started coming, which for some people were surprises, but not for me. Suddenly Carlos Sainz was on the radar again. I had a tough first season, where I was quick but was very unlucky with retirements and reliability issues. After these unfortunate things stopped I could really show who I was.

Q: It all means the expectations are now surely raised even more. What are you supposed to deliver for the rest of the season - and particularly in 2017?

CS: I think they are expecting to see the driver that they have now, but one that is still evolving. And, of course, that is also my aim - I want to improve even further and I want to be there with Toro Rosso, to capitalize on the regulation changes, and still be able to surprise everyone. I want to be that one driver at Toro Rosso who can extract the maximum potential out of the car next year.
I think that it is also playing to my advantage that the regulation changes will bring a few uncertainties - I do know the team very well and they won’t need to worry about integrating someone new. I have built up a group of people around me that I am extremely happy with and the team has a lot of confidence in me. James Key, Franz Tost and all the engineers have a lot of trust in me and that gives me the right environment to achieve something big next year.

Q: Your team principal Franz Tost said a while ago that he expected Toro Rosso’s performance to drop off midseason thanks to no further development on the 2015 Ferrari engine. But so far - after 11 races - you are still running strong, sixth in the constructors’ standings. Have you felt a deficit on the engine side?

CS: At Toro Rosso we all did feel that, simply because the other teams are developing and improving. We have the same car with the same power unit, which makes it harder at every race, as you need to work even harder and try out more different things and different set-ups to compensate for this. I think the ideal for us is to not become too crazy and just put the car that we know on the track. If the others are quicker then it is rather bad luck for us, as they have a quicker engine and we cannot do much about that fact. Overall we cannot get mad about this, as it would be very easy to overreact.

Q: In 2017 everything should look even brighter for Toro Rosso - Renault engines again and hence more synergies with Red Bull Racing. Is that where you are pinning your hopes?

CS: I think that should help. At the moment they are still in the decision process of how much they will help us. This is still open, as this is the nature of Formula One, to stay competitive and not help your competitors too much. Generally it would help and we can learn a lot of things from them. I think it would be better if we are on their tails in the standings rather than Williams or any other team.

Q: You hear endless talk about the sensational Max Verstappen, your former team mate - that he is the new Vettel, the new Senna etc. Does that produce any kind of envy, or doubt about your own abilities?

CS: I think people would be very surprised by how little I care about these things and the hype about Max. There is nothing that I could be jealous of and I do not have any complexes. I can be quite proud of what I have achieved in Formula One the last two years, and I am one of those lucky drivers that has made it into this sport. I have been performing at a very high level and people see and acknowledge this.

Q: In fact you have been the main provider of points lately - your new team mate Daniil Kvyat has delivered only two points since he re-joined the team at the Spanish Grand Prix. Is the car so difficult to drive?

CS: I do not think that it is difficult to drive. Generally he has been performing at a high level as well; maybe he was unlucky or trying to find new things on the car that have not worked out as expected. I personally think that he adapted to the car quite quickly, though I do not really care too much about what is going on the other side of the garage as I am focusing on myself and that is already enough work. There is not enough time to analyse why the others are better like Max, or why Daniil has a bad time.
I do not have a preference on who should be my team mate for the future, as I think if I needed to worry about something like this that would mean that one does not have enough self-confidence.

Q: All the drivers seem to love Spa, but the reality is that only two non-champions have won the race since it returned to the calendar in 2007: Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo. Is it such a difficult track - one that separates the good from the not so good?

CS: I think any Formula One driver would have the capability of winning in Spa, as all of us are very talented. Some of the drivers will like the track more and others less. What is for sure true for me is that this track gives you the exact feeling of driving a Formula One car - when you race through Eau Rouge, or through Blanchimont. This track provides real racing, and this is the main reason why we all like it so much. In fact this track is my favourite, as since I came here I was always able to get good results. But for sure this Sunday it will be a tough race, as this is a very engine-driven track and our engine has not been developed further. But now, as the unlucky things have stopped happening to me, I have a very positive feeling that it should be another points-delivering result.