Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr says he has good friend and fellow countryman Fernando Alonso to thank for making it to Formula 1.
Speaking to F1i.com recently, the Spaniard explained how Alonso’s guidance had been a big factor in shaping him into a F1 ready driver.
“Fernando mentored me since I was 15, it helped me a lot.
“Perhaps without him, I would not be here today. I owe him a great deal.”
Despite the strong camaraderie between the two however, this is still a sport where everyone is out to win, and Sainz Jr confirmed that all that would go out the window when it came to securing wins or podiums.
“When you drive in Formula One, you see a McLaren behind and you don’t see Fernando Alonso, the person.
“I am not just going to let him by, especially if I am in P3 and about to get the first podium of my career, or my first win or whatever.”
The Spaniard had a strong season in 2016, and really shone ahead of team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who hit a slump in performance when he was relegated to the Faenza based squad, after losing his seat with sister team Red Bull Racing.
Fellow Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen was promoted the other way ahead of Sainz Jr, but that did not deter the Spaniard, instead it seemed to spur him on to put in some dazzling performances.
A brilliant drive at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, saw him achieve his best ever result in F1 when he came home in sixth place, a feat made even better for Sainz Jr by the fact it was on home soil.
And that prompted a string of top ten finishes, as well as two further results to equal his best finishing position in the second half of the season, despite having to contend with an underperforming 2015 specification Scuderia Ferrari engine.
It was a season the 22-year-old was proud of, as he explained to Spanish broadcaster Antena 3.
“It was a very good year. Everything went very well and I took a very important step forward in my sporting career in 2016.”
Sainz Jr also commented on how he would be pushing extremely hard in the off-season to ensure he is ready to bring a strong challenge to the F1 grid in 2017, and with Toro Rosso having switched their power unit to the up-to-date Renault engine next year, the team have every chance of being competitive.