Alonso backs Sainz to reach F1 despite Toro Rosso snub

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Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has backed fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr. to reach Formula 1 despite being rejected by Toro Rosso for a race seat in 2015.

The Spanish youngster currently leads the Formula Renault 3.5 championship – one of F1’s feeder series – and looks set to win the title, following in the footsteps of Kevin Magnussen.

He was expected to replace Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso in 2015, being the most senior and established Red Bull junior driver, but was snubbed in favor of 16-year-old Max Verstappen. The Dutchman will become the youngest ever F1 driver when he makes his debut next March.

Speaking in Belgium ahead of this weekend’s race, Alonso admitted that he was surprised not to see Sainz get the nod, but is confident that his compatriot will reach F1.

“Obviously I was thinking and many people thought that he would be with Toro Rosso next year,” Alonso explained. “He will arrive in Formula 1 sooner or later. He has the talent, he has the mentality, he has the right approach.

“He is 19 – now that seems old. 19 years old, leading the World Series, winning in all the championships that he’s raced before. He will arrive.”

Verstappen’s rapid promotion has certainly ruffled some feathers in Formula 1, sparking a debate over whether or not he is too young to race. For Alonso, putting in a driver at such a young age has both its pros and cons.

“There is a lot of experience that you get with the years, the championships on your shoulders,” Alonso said. “Sometimes arriving in too early is a good thing, sometimes arriving too early is a bad thing, because you don’t have the experience sometimes to cope with some of the demands that Formula 1 has.

“Red Bull has what it wants because everybody today asks about Verstappen, which is good coverage in the media.”

Would Alonso have been ready at 17? “Probably I was not ready,” he admitted.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup