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F1 2016 Driver Review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso
Car No.: 55
Races: 21
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 6th (Spain, USA, Brazil)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 46
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.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).