Carlos Sainz Jr.
Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso
Car No.: 55
Best Finish: 7th (USA)
Fastest Laps: 0
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.