Speaking at Autosport International recently, McLaren CEO Zak Brown explained how the more supportive environment of McLaren in comparison to Toro Rosso has allowed Carlos Sainz Jr. to become “outstanding”.
The Red Bull driver programme headed by Dr Helmut Marko is infamously ruthless when it comes to driver changes. This being seen with the swap of Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly. Drivers are chopped and changed between their two teams to ensure the best results, but it could be argued this uncertainty affects driver performance.
Sainz left the programme in 2017 in a midseason ‘loan’ to Renault where he partnered Nico Hulkenburg until 2018. “I think he’d been living under one-year contracts in the whole Red Bull-Toro Rosso environment,” Brown told Formula1.com. Sainz was never comfortable in the 2018 Renault car and was outscored by Hulkenburg who’d been with the team since the start of 2017.
How has McLaren helped Sainz?
Sainz’s switch to McLaren for the 2019 season meant he would effectively become their number one driver. Starting the season, he held more F1 experience than rookie Lando Norris. This allowed him more influence over the development of the car and led to an impressive sixth place in the drivers’ championship as well as an unlikely stand out podium.
2019 is the first time Sainz went into an offseason with his future sorted; a 2 year contract with McLaren securing him as an integral part of their future in the sport. speaking to motorsport.com, Sainz revealed, “I think this stability has given me a chance to show a bit of a new Carlos, that maybe the paddock in general or many people hadn’t seen,”.
This contract stability allows Sainz to develop the team around him as well as take risks and develop as a driver without the added risk of being dropped from the team as a result. However, he believes this also adds new pressure “I never had that [security]. So even if you don’t feel it, and you don’t want [to think about it], there’s that pressure to bring results now,” he continued.
The 2020 season should be another step forward for McLaren. Both new drivers from last year are now settled and continued structural changes are helping develop the team back into regular podium contenders. Only time will tell whether the MCL35 set to revealed on 13 February 2020 will provide their drivers with the basis for this.