James Key believes the departure from Scuderia Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen has helped Carlos Sainz Jr become a more focused and relaxed driver.
The technical director of the Faenza-based team believes Sainz has been able to focus more on his own driving and in beating everyone else on track now that Verstappen has moved on to Red Bull Racing, and as such has stepped up his performances.
Key believes that with Verstappen as Sainz’s team-mate, the Spaniard’s performances were not being noticed as much as the Dutchman’s, but now he has been released to show just what he is capable of without being directly compared to Verstappen.
“He has come on really well this year,” said Key to Autosport. “He is a really good guy to work with anyway, he always has been.
“People in the team have huge respect for what he has done, even though it has been slightly under the radar for reasons we know.
“But that reason has moved on now and that allowed him to perhaps be slightly less distracted by beating his team-mate and more on beating the other guys on track as best as he can.
“He has been very focused recently, he’s matured a lot this year and he’s gained a lot of confidence in himself, so his approach to race weekends is more relaxed.
“It is a bit more like a guy who has been doing it for a long time rather than a rookie who wants to prove himself. He’s come on a long way.”