McLaren comes alive in race trim – Interview with Carlos Sainz

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Carlos Sainz feels that McLaren has made significant steps forward, establishing itself as the fourth fastest outfit in race trims. Speaking to’ Balázs Szabó at Monza, the young Spaniard assessed the performances of the Woking-based outfit in the first half of the season.

After two seasons with Toro Rosso and other two campaigns with Renault, McLaren announced on 16 August 2018 that Carlos Sainz would join the sport’s second most successful team at the start of 2019. With the departure of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, the Woking-based outfit has started the year with a fresh driver pairing. Helped by the improving form of McLaren, Sainz has scored more points than in any of his previous four seasons in F1 with five more races to go in 2020.

Asked to summarize McLaren’s achievement in 2019, Sainz did not hide his honest opinion about the current stance of his team. „It is no secret that we have a car that is much more competitive than last year, but it is still very far from where McLaren should be. ”

„Given how tight pre-season testing and the first two races were in terms of performance between all the teams, I must say I am very happy with where we are at the moment. The midfield is so tight and everyone is so close. To have the points we have at the moment means that we are doing things right.”

Sainz acknowledged that McLaren’s MCL34 was not the best qualifying car, but it often delivers a much better performance in race conditions. The Spaniard happily recalled this year’s British Grand Prix where he started only from 13th on the grid to work his way up to the sixth position thanks to the brilliant race pace of his car.

„We are less dependent on our qualifying performance. We manage to extract on Sundays the extra that we might be missing in qualifiyng. It was not the case in Hungary, because we were the best of the rest in qualifying [there], but there have been lots of races where we have been outqualified by midfield rivals, and we have still scored lots of points.”

„I think we have done big improvements compared to last year. During the year, we haven’t done massive steps compared to other people. It is true that since Canada, we have more often hit our targets which is to be in the points. We haven’t [brought] massive upgrades to the car, we haven’t changed the car around. We have just brought very little stuffs to every race.”

Harmony inside the team

The current season is the Spaniard’s fifth year at the pinnacle of motorsport. During this relatively short period of time, he has had five teammates including Max Verstappen, Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly, Nico Hülkenberg and Lando Norris. He seems to get along the best with his current teammate Lando Norris and there is plenty of banter and good humor between the two on social media.

The duo of the two young drivers has been seemingly enjoying each other’s company better than any other pairing in the pitlane. Sainz thinks the good atmophere is ultimately key for the team to enhance its performance.

Compared to Toro Rosso and Renault, the atmosphere „is different. At McLaren, we are enjoying a very good team atmosphere. With Lando, myself and the engineers, we manage to create a very good atmposphere at the circuit, not the PR people, they are always complaining about problems, but we keep ourselfs chilled at every Grand Prix. Apart from that, I must say we manage to find something different in the paddock, I hope we keep it for the future, because [it helps] the overall performance of the team. This atmosphere drives us forward.”

Can’t come soon enough

Formula One is set for some major changes in 2021 both on the technical and the sporting side. The current Commercial Rights Holder Liberty Media has been conducting research work to find out how to make racing more interesting. Sainz hails the changes and stressed the importance of the introduction of the budget cap.

„I think things will change, but the overall picture of Formula One will stay the same. I am positive with what FOM has come up regarding the aero regulations, the budget cap. I just wish it would be for next year.”

One of the key areas is the set of changes to the aerodynamics of the car. The Spaniard hopes that the new shape of the cars will allow closer racing and will end the dependence on overtaking aids like the drag reduction system.

„I think time will tell. FOM is very convinced that it will work. We don’t have any other choices than believe in it. I trust them, because they have done research, they have done their homework. They are going in the right way. I can tell you Formula One would have without DRS zero overtakes, so I think DRS is at the moment needed. Hopefully, in the future, we won’t depend on it,” Sainz concluded.