Carlos Sainz Jr.
Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso
Car No.: 55
Best Finish: 6th (Spain, USA, Brazil)
Fastest Laps: 0
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 12th
Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)
I’m still not convinced there is that much difference in ability between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. While Verstappen has lived up to the hype he is surrounded by, Sainz has quietly got on with the job at hand, leading Toro Rosso to a respectable seventh in the constructors’ championship.
The thing to remember in all of this is that Toro Rosso raced through 2016 with a 2015-spec Ferrari power unit. As the rest of the field developed, Toro Rosso stood still – and yet Sainz was able to claim some big results. His charge to sixth on home soil in Spain was impressive, but the stand-out performances came in Austin and Brazil, once again finishing both times around.
Brazil saw Sainz come close to a breakthrough podium, running fourth for much of the race before losing out late on to – you guessed it – Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. Another podium shout came in Monaco, when two slow pit stops cost Sainz track position and left him a disappointing P8 at the line.
All in all, another hugely impressive year for Sainz that will have undoubtedly caught the eye of some of F1’s biggest teams ahead of a possible move up the grid for 2018.
Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)
There must be something about tenacious Spanish drivers outperforming the machinery at their disposal. Carlos Sainz Jr. may be the son of the rally legend, but in F1 terms, he’s the next generation Fernando Alonso – and that’s arguably some of the highest praise that can be bestowed on a driver.
Sainz got his just rewards and recognition this year for his efforts, dragging the Toro Rosso with a year-old Ferrari engine nearly to a top-10 finish in the championship. With 46 points, he was only three off of Max Verstappen’s total last year in the team, and that was with a same year Renault power unit.
Rather than act as though he was overlooked for the Red Bull senior team seat – and he was – Sainz instead put his head down and kept going through thick-and-thin, showing both pace and race craft far beyond his 22 years. Arguably, he’s a more complete driver than Verstappen at the moment, even if Verstappen has more highlight-reel clips at his disposal. Along with Alonso at McLaren and Robert Kubica at Renault a few years ago, Sainz’s campaign was one of the best midfield runs in recent F1 history.