For Carlos Sainz Jr., sixth place in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix marked a career-best in his 24th Grand Prix start in one of the two Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferraris.
The 21-year-old from Madrid had been perhaps overlooked in recent weeks within the Red Bull empire – Daniel Ricciardo had led Red Bull’s charge in the opening races, while the recent Daniil Kvyat drama and his subsequent switch with Max Verstappen between Red Bull and Toro Rosso had dominated headlines in the run up to the Spanish Grand Prix.
Then of course, Verstappen decided to go off and make F1 history as the youngest winner ever on Sunday, in his first start for Red Bull.
But Sainz, who qualified eighth, made out like a bandit on Sunday when he made it up to third at the end of the first lap behind Red Bull teammates Ricciardo and Verstappen and ahead of the Scuderia Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, following the first-lap Mercedes coming together of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Sainz fell back slightly from there but still secured sixth place, which beat his prior best result of seventh at Circuit of the Americas last year by one spot.
“You know it was a great weekend for me,” Sainz told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “We found a really good balance. Finally we did a very good race. It was just a matter of time everything would come together for me.”
Sainz hailed his start as one of the best of his career.
“The start was an amazing feeling to be in podium position on merit,” he said. “One of the best starts of my life. First laps were nice. The Ferraris, I had to let them go, otherwise it would have been compromised my race.”
However, post-race, it was revealed Sainz would be under investigation by the stewards for possible leaving of the pit lane with the red light on. But following the review, there was no further action taken.
Sainz, who along with Verstappen had had a bit of a disagreement earlier this year in Melbourne, was happy for his former teammate.
“I’m honestly very happy for him and for the Red Bull family,” he said. “It’s great they keep bringing talent into Formula 1.
“From my side, I look forward to fighting for victories down the road with him, like we were for P8s and Q3 in Toro Rosso.”
Interestingly Sainz didn’t do himself any harm against Kyvat this weekend either in the Russian’s return to the team.
Kvyat failed to make it out of Q2 and lined up 13th, and did make it into the points in 10th place.