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F1 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso
Car No.: 55
Races: 19
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 7th (USA)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 18
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 15th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Carlos Sainz Jr. was arguably the unluckiest driver in Formula 1 this year: unlucky to suffer so many issues with his car, unlucky to only score 18 points, unlucky to have Max Verstappen as a teammate.

Sainz’s debut season in the sport was a very strong one when you take everything into account, not just his final points total. A solid start to the year with points in Australia and Malaysia was followed by a fine performance in Spain when he charged past Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat late on to score points on home soil.

However, a run of four DNFs between Austria and Belgium mired the year, costing him serious hauls of points – bear in mind he was ahead of Verstappen in Hungary early on, who would go on to finish fourth – and sullying what was a strong season in truth.

Verstappen unquestionably had a better year, of that there can be no doubt, but the 31-point gap between the two Toro Rosso drivers does Sainz a disservice. He was more than a match for the Dutchman in qualifying, and although he lacked some of the fire that was seen across the garage on-track, Sainz proved that he more than deserves his seat in F1.

Hopefully 2016 will allow the Spaniard to show his true colors and put Verstappen to the sword. It’s arguably the most intriguing intra-team battle on the grid.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

If you think of Daniil Kvyat (21), Sainz Jr. (21) and Max Verstappen (18) as three brothers within Red Bull’s current quartet of young talent (Daniel Ricciardo is 26), then Sainz would have to be viewed as the “troubled middle child.” He’s talented and quick… but also desperately unlucky and overshadowed by either his older or younger siblings.

The case in point: Kvyat got promoted to Red Bull after just one year at Toro Rosso’s incubator, and Sainz Jr. got his F1 chance arguably a year late, having missed out on the ride in 2014. Matched up alongside Verstappen, arguably the most exciting rookie F1 has had in years, Sainz was always going to be overlooked – and doing so would have done him a disservice.

The young Spaniard was pretty impressive for most of the season though. He had some standout qualifying efforts and his resiliency was profound. His weekend at Sochi about summed it all up. He’d been flying early in the weekend but had one of the year’s most severe looking accidents in qualifying. Upon racing, he carved through the field… then got let down by a mechanical failure.

Verstappen outscored him 49-18 but the gulf in performance was not that big in actuality. Sainz just bore the majority of Toro Rosso’s bad luck – as Jean-Eric Vergne had in the past few years. He was arguably one of the top 10 drivers of the season and his results did not reflect how solid a performer he was, albeit one still with some room for improvement.

 

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.