Strolling through the lower paddock at Brands Hatch last weekend, it was apparent to this writer that Carlos Sainz is taking his son's fledgling racing career very seriously indeed. The legendary Spaniard, a winner of 26 WRC rounds – including classics the Safari, the 1000 Lakes of Finland and the Monte Carlo Rally – for four different manufacturers, retired from full-time competition in 2004 and nowadays spends his weekends at race circuits instead of dirt stages.
This year, Carlos Jr. is dovetailing an assault on the British Formula 3 championship with a programme in the Formula 3 Euroseries. Aged just 17, the younger Sainz is remarkably leading the British series, and lies only five points off championship leader and F3 veteran Daniel Juncadella in the Euroseries. Running with the crack Carlin Motorsport team, which has won the last four consecutive British titles with Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Felipe Nasr, Spain's brightest new hope is in the perfect environment to emulate his proud father. But it's not all down to the car – as third year Carlin driver Jazeman Jaafar will attest, F3 is a tough category to master.
“I think that considering he is so young he is doing a good job,” says El Matador of his son. “The fact that he is in a good team is helping him, but you cannot forget also that he is just 17 years old.”
Sainz's star-quality was demonstrated earlier in the year by a clean weekend through the streets of Pau, which is one of the most difficult circuits anywhere in the world. After a composed run to sixth in race one, Sainz hassled double-winner Raffaele Marciello all the way to the flag in race two, taking a maximum haul of points for the British championship in the process. Such a mature, level-headed approach can only stand Sainz in good stead in the long term.
“I think he did a good job because Pau is an extremely demanding circuit, and he did no mistakes the whole weekend,” his father says. “I am really pleased with that”.
Sainz Jr. may be the reigning Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion, but the Cooper-Tyres shod Dallara Formula 3 car is a big step up in power and grip. Despite this, as outright victories at Monza showed, it hasn't fazed the 17-year old in the slightest.
“He's really enjoying it; he really likes it,” says Carlos Sr. “It's a new challenge, because even if the car is similar, the teams really need to understand them and a lot of parts were delayed.
“I think now is probably the first race where all the cars are equal; you've had all the [new] stuff to try and perfect. It's important now that at the next test at Rockingham he makes sure he carries on this good start.
“At the moment it looks like in the European championship Prema is doing a good job but I'm sure Carlin will try to fight them.”
As for El Matador, when asked, he reaffirmed with a chuckle that he was retired, and would not be driving the new VW Polo WRC car in competitive anger.
“It's going to be a good car, it has good pace,” he says of his experience testing it. “We are going step by step and the car is getting better.”
As for the identity of the Sebastien Ogier's partner in the second seat, when asked about the possibility of IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen stepping up, Sainz said coyly, “it's a possible chance.”