On the age of 26, Carlos Sainz has accomplished six seasons in System One. He has pushed for 4 groups in that interval, raced in 118 grands prix and scored 372 profession factors.
However none of that can put together him for the following chapter in his profession: a transfer to Ferrari.
It was clear from his debut F1 season with Toro Rosso in 2015 that Sainz had expertise. He seemed aggressive subsequent to fellow rookie Max Verstappen, however the youthful Dutch driver edged him to realize a promotion to the senior Pink Bull group halfway by means of 2016.
In doing so, Verstappen blocked Sainz’s path to a successful automotive and the Spaniard was compelled to forge a special path to the entrance of the grid.
At first Pink Bull performed him as a pawn in negotiations with Renault, loaning him to the French producer so its junior Toro Rosso group might be relieved of its engine contract and signal with Honda for 2018.
However the transfer labored for Sainz and his status flourished outdoors of Pink Bull, permitting him to interrupt freed from his contract in 2019 and signal with McLaren.
He joined the British group as its outcomes improved and his standing within the sport was enhanced by a stable 2019 season, topped off by his first profession podium on the Brazilian Grand Prix.
At this level, Ferrari took discover. Sebastian Vettel was nearing the top of his contract with the Italian group and Sainz had appeared on its radar as a possible substitute.
Over the winter approaches had been made and earlier than a wheel had turned within the delayed begin 2020 season, Sainz was named as a Ferrari driver for 2021.
Primarily based purely on the efficiency of the 2 groups in 2020, a transfer from Ferrari to McLaren might be seen as a step backwards.
McLaren’s upward trajectory, which coincided with Sainz’s arrival in 2019, left the group third within the constructors’ championship final 12 months, whereas Ferrari slumped to sixth.
However Sainz has little doubt he’s making the precise transfer.
“To start with, you might be driving for Ferrari… I do not suppose there’s rather more to say,” he advised a choose group of journalists, together with ESPN, in an interview on the finish of 2020.
“Changing into a Ferrari driver is in each driver’s thoughts and each driver’s goals.
“Independently of the state of affairs, it is very, very troublesome to say no to that.
“At that time, I used to be fairly satisfied that as an Italian group…I would all the time felt comfy with Toro Rosso, and I all the time felt like Ferrari might be a very good place for me.
“I do know Italian, I do know some individuals there, and I felt like I may have a profitable time there instantly.
“Other than that, I believe sentimentally, driving for probably the most profitable group within the historical past of the game is all the time the dream of any System One driver.”
However there is no such thing as a getting away from the truth that Sainz joins Ferrari at a low level within the group’s historical past.
The shortage of leads to the 2020 marketing campaign got here after the group was stripped of an influence unit benefit it had gained by bending the boundary of the laws in 2019 demoted it from the entrance of the grid to the midfield.
The lack of engine efficiency additionally uncovered different weaknesses in Ferrari’s automotive idea and the group is now concentrating on a return to the entrance by 2022, accepting that world champions Mercedes are too far forward to problem this 12 months.
“I already see some constructive indicators from Ferrari and enhancements and clearly there’s a new engine coming which ought to once more enhance a bit the state of affairs,” Sainz mentioned. “However I believe 2021 is a troublesome 12 months for everybody.
“Everyone knows Mercedes goes to maintain dominating the game and with out a huge regulation change there’s a whole lot of possibilities that can proceed in 2021.
“So for me, I believe Ferrari and just about everybody who just isn’t Mercedes ought to focus extra on 2022 and attempting to make that the most important change within the competitiveness of the group.
“I am already assured that Ferrari know that and are going to attempt to do this and that 2021 goes to be a transition 12 months.
“I will likely be attempting to get in touch with the group and construct good relationships and attending to know the automotive race by race after which in 2022 we begin with a clear sheet of paper and new laws and it may be extra necessary additionally.”
In some methods, a transitional 12 months just isn’t a foul factor for Sainz.
Expectations have already been lowered by Ferrari’s dismal efficiency in 2020 and, whereas there’s all the time added strain on Ferrari drivers in System One, nobody is anticipating him to win races from day one.
He’ll, nonetheless, be measured towards his new teammate Charles Leclerc. In a season through which a lot went fallacious for Ferrari, Leclerc remained its shining mild and secured two podiums towards the chances.
Sainz has the expertise of going up towards Verstappen at Toro Rosso to know what it is prefer to share a storage with a group’s golden boy, and he’s eager to see how he stacks up towards Leclerc.
“I am trying ahead to it, primarily as a result of he is most likely one of many drivers on higher kind, on the grid,” Sainz mentioned. “You could possibly argue he had a brilliant robust season [in 2020], he is aware of the group, he is aware of the automotive very properly and he appears to be like to be actually on prime of his sport.
“With the mix of youth and expertise that he has now, I believe I will be up towards the strongest, or undoubtedly one of many strongest drivers on the grid. Will probably be an awesome benchmark for me.
“I’ll clearly begin with a little bit of an obstacle not realizing the automotive, having little or no winter testing — having one-day-and-a-half to organize for the season [at the Bahrain test].
“I’ll have a whole lot of catch as much as do within the first half of the 12 months, within the first races, as I get to know the group and the automotive, however will probably be nice to have him as a benchmark and see how shortly I can rise up to hurry and hold serving to the group to get higher.”
However Sainz is trying a lot longer-term than the upcoming 2021 season. He has a two-year cope with Ferrari till the top of 2022 (Leclerc is contracted till the top of 2024) however he’s hopeful he’ll have the ability to construct a brand new house in F1 after so a few years switching between groups.
“I used to be planning to construct a long-term relationship with McLaren and I loved the 2 years with this group rather a lot, and the second 12 months we noticed enhancements already in comparison with the primary one, so it reveals that stability in a single group and staying in a single group for a very long time helps with efficiency and makes you a faster driver and a greater driver,” he provides.
“That is additionally my goal with Ferrari and why I signed a two-year cope with them and, so long as we’re pleased with one another, I would like that to be the brand new tendency in my contracts, not only one 12 months like I used to be with Renault not realizing what was going to occur.
“If there’s one factor I’ve realized in McLaren, it’s how necessary it’s to be multiple 12 months in a group to extract the utmost potential of that automotive and the individuals which are subsequent to you.”