Carlos Sainz Jr. is braced for a tough second half of the 2016 Formula 1 season as Toro Rosso’s rivals begin to pull ahead in the engine development race.
Toro Rosso struck a deal to use 2015-spec Ferrari power units in 2016 after a tumultuous year with Renault, intended to offer a pace advantage in the early part of the year.
Renault will supply Toro Rosso once again from 2017 after making big strides through the off-season, giving Red Bull (Toro Rosso’s parent team) a performance boost on-track.
While other teams have benefitted from ongoing engine development, Toro Rosso finds itself standing still with its 2015 power units, the pace gap becoming clear in recent race weekends.
“We are not going through our best moments at the moment,” Sainz conceded.
“Since Hockenheim and the last race in Spa it looks like it’s taking us a lot more effort to get close to the top 10. Spa was kind of expected; Hockenheim not so much, but we are definitely not where we want to be.
“In theory we think were prepared for the performance drop-off of the engine in the second half of the season but it has been maybe a bit more than expected, so now there is a lot work going on in Toro Rosso, a lot of analysis, a lot of testing coming up in free practice to try to turn around this bit of a bump we are going through.
“I still have full confidence. [At] Spa, it would have been nice to see what we could have achieved after being P7 at the start, but it’s how it is sometimes.”
Sainz was asked about the change in atmosphere at Toro Rosso since Max Verstappen’s move up to Red Bull and Kvyat’s switch in the opposite direction.
“My teammate has changed but my approach and my attitude to work, to Formula 1, is exactly the same,” Sainz said.
“The team, internally, had a bit of a reshuffle but it was all in a good direction. I think we can be happier with the first half of the season of Toro Rosso.
“We will see how the second half goes but it’s going to be tough for us. We need to make sure we put everything in our hands to keep McLaren in our sights.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult because they’re already ahead but it’s going to be tough but we’re going to try our best.”
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”