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.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.