Carlos Sainz says Formula 1 teams are “a lot more different than what people imagine”, and believes the value of team continuity for a driver is underestimated.
Sainz’s progress during three seasons at Toro Rosso earned him a mid-season switch to Renault in 2017, but he was unable to nail down his place with the French manufacturer, departing after a single full season when it secured the services of Daniel Ricciardo instead.
Now with his third F1 team in McLaren, the Spaniard says the early period of adaptation for Ricciardo at Renault and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, as well as Pierre Gasly’s frustrating stint at Red Bull, have served as evidence of the particularities of each F1 outfit.
“They are very different,” Sainz said of Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren. “A lot more different than what people imagine. And the cars behave a lot more different than what people think.
“That’s why I think you’re seeing that every driver needs a few races to adapt to a team, to a car. We’ve seen it with Ricciardo this year, with Pierre, with every driver that has changed teams… Leclerc at the beginning of the year.
“You need a bit of time to find the secrets. And the teams work differently in every way, so it takes time and people underestimate how much performance you can extract from a package when you’ve been there more than one year.
“The performance that I was extracting from a Toro Rosso, that for me was not the midfield leader at any point, and sometimes being good with the Toro Rosso like I was in 2016, 2017, I only achieved it because of knowing my package and knowing how to exploit it.
“You see [Racing Point’s Sergio] Perez, you see [Max] Verstappen now with Red Bull, you see [Lewis] Hamilton with Mercedes. It’s a consequence of spending a bit of time with a team and knowing how to exploit that car to the limit.”
Sainz‘s tally of 58 points is comfortably the highest for a driver of a midfield team in 2019, and he is currently on a run of five top-six finishes in the past seven races.
However, in terms of pure pace he has faced a stern challenge from rookie teammate Lando Norris, and the Spaniard says he is not yet completely in tune with the car.
“I do start to know it pretty well,” he said. “But I still feel like I have a lot more room for improvement and the car has a lot of more room for improvement, myself setting the car up a bit more to my liking.
“We are still trying a lot of things every Friday just to see which direction I like and everything. But it’s a slow process.
“What I mean is a matter of years, you know? The more years you are in a team or in something, you always learn more about the car and learn more about the team, about the people, how to extract more from every individual. I guess it’s like any other work in the world.”
Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL34, leads Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing RB15
Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images
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