There are a few drivers in the Formula 1 paddock that will look at the result and the performance put in this weekend around the Autodromo Nazionale Monza by Carlos Sainz Jr, most notable one Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman is in his third year at the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, and with fellow Red Bull backed driver Sainz winning race two of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in Italy in convincing style, having started from pole position, it cannot be good for the F1 drivers already fragile confidence.
Yes it can be said driver Sainz did not have a perfect weekend, but that was by no means his fault. The Spaniard was fastest in both Friday practice sessions, took both pole positions and won race two. Race one was ruined by an electrical fault in his DAMS machine, and he was left on the dummy grid, and joined the race three laps down. He did set the fastest lap however, something he also did in race two.
Sainz had not won a race since 2012, and had been dominated in 2013 by Daniil Kvyat, who went on to win the GP3 Series crown and take Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso drive from under the nose of Sainz and Antonio Felix da Costa. But if he was unnerved by the long wait to win, it did not show on Sunday, and the 10+ second victory was commanding and dominant.
Vergne is a good driver; you cannot make it to F1 without being good. But Toro Rosso have a history of being less than tolerant with their drivers if they begin to under-perform. Vergne might have impressed in Australia, but so far this year all the chat has been about Kvyat and his impressive entrance into F1. This year Vergne has to impress, has to score points regularly, and cannot let Kvyat get all the plaudits. We know Vergne can race, just look at his Monaco and Montreal results in 2013! But we also know his confidence is fragile. After Ricciardo was confirmed at Red Bull Racing instead of him last year, he did not score another point, while Ricciardo managed a handful of top ten finishes.
But now Sainz has put some extra pressure on Vergne from the outside, and if the Spaniard can maintain this dominant form throughout the season, Spain might just have their next F1 star. Yes, Formula Renault 3.5 has some very good, F1-bound drivers, but one that is winning and has Red Bull backing cannot be overlooked.
Fernando Alonso cannot last forever in Formula 1; Carlos Sainz Jr might just be Spain’s single-seater saviour.