Carlos Sainz Jr.: “I want to win as soon as possible”

26th July 2019
Seán Ward

Formula 1 can be a tough old world. To survive you need to be quick, resilient and consistent, not just quick. One man who’s so far managed to prove his worth, despite never being in a top team and having been thrust into F1 as part of the most cut-throat driver development programme there is, is Carlos Sainz Jr.


Starting out at Toro Rosso in 2015 alongside the then 17-year-old Max Verstappen, Carlos did exactly what the team expected of him: race well and finish in the points as often as possible. While Verstappen made the jump to Red Bull in 2016 (winning on his debut in a drama-filled Spanish Grand Prix), Sainz stayed with Toro Rosso before moving to Renault just a few races before the end of the 2017 season. It was after just one year with the factory team Sainz swapped Renault for McLaren, a move that, given Renault’s drop in performance compared to 2018, looks to have been well timed.


His car for the Festival? A McLaren M8D, a legendary Can-Am monster and the car that sadly claimed the life of Bruce McLaren at a test at Goodwood in 1970. We start by asking if he’s driven it before.

“No, I’ve just fired it up and given it a bit of throttle. I was pretty amazed, even by that. It’s going to be quite crazy I think.” Crazy sounds like something of an understatement – given that the M8D has a 630bhp, 7.3-litre V8 and weighs just 630kg.

Would it feel quite different to drive, compared to his normal weekend drive, the MCL34? “Yeah, when you get to drive the new stuff everything is so perfect and so fast that everything’s going to feel slow compared to it, and probably worse, but still I think I’ll enjoy it.”

The M8D also has something Carlos has done without for his whole career: a manual gearbox. Does he enjoy using a manual? “Not particularly”, he says. “I find it uncomfortable, like you cannot be so precise with your driving, but I can sense the reason why everyone misses because the driver had a bit more input. I personally drive h-pattern back at home in a rally car so it’s something I can do well, but I don’t particularly enjoy doing it.”

We move on to life at McLaren, having spent years in and around Milton Keynes with Red Bull and just over a year based in Enstone. Where does he live? “In the UK, less than an hour from the factory.” As it turns out, Carlos lives in Weybridge, less than half an hour away from his Guildford-based team-mate Lando Norris.

Does he enjoy working at the MTC, we ask? “Yeah. Maybe the first ten days that I went into work at the office, I would get there ten minutes earlier to stare at the cars, you know, and enjoy the walk – it’s such a special place.

And how does McLaren compare to Renault? “Don’t get me wrong, it was great team with a lot of history, a team that my idol Fernando Alonso became world champion with, so it was quite an important step in my career. I think McLaren is just different, you know – not better, not worse, it’s just different.”

The move to McLaren has brought with it company car benefits, too, something Carlos is extremely happy with. “That’s been a very good step in my career. Today I drove in my 720S. We also get the Renault Megane RS from Renault because they’re our engine manufacturer, so I still have a Megane RS parked next to my McLaren at home.”

Which car does he drive most? “Honestly? I try to take care of the 720S – I don’t use it a lot. Also, because the UK roads, I’m sorry to say, but they are not the best for this kind of car. They are bumpy… No criticism at all, but I think I would enjoy the 720S back in Spain! Still, I take it out quite a lot to go to the factory, to go for dinner sometimes. I enjoy it.”


What about the pressure of Formula 1. Is it ever too much? “There’s always pressure in Formula 1. Obviously it’s my fifth season so I’m starting to feel more established, especially after surviving the Red Bull programme, after being one of the only Red Bull drivers to leave the programme but still be in Formula 1.

“I think I’ve survived well through all of those things – now it’s more a matter of when I want to win. I want to win as soon as possible, and I think I’m in the right place at the right time to just get the momentum and think about it in the future.”

Finally, the Festival. When we sat down with Carlos he’d been at the Festival “literally for half an hour”, but, he said, “I already like the atmosphere, you know? You can feel everyone that’s here loves racing, they’re one of us.”


Would he be able to switch off a little, to relax in a way he wouldn’t over the course of a normal grand prix weekend? “Here? No. I think here, especially wearing my suit and my hat, you keep signing autographs, keep taking pictures. You’re basically still working because you still need to smile, to be kind to people, which is my way of being but, still, you’re in a working atmosphere, you’re wearing your team kit. You’re wearing your suit when you go to the office. It’s still similar.

“If I would put a hat and sunglasses on, and maybe change my clothes – maybe I’m going to try and do that later today and see if I get to have a look around because if I use the chance to come here and enjoy this wonderful place… Maybe I can get half an hour for myself and see if I don’t get recognised, and just enjoy it.”

Did you notice a Carlos Sainz Jr. doubleganger wandering around on Saturday at the Festival of Speed, wearing a hoodie and sunglasses? Maybe it really was the man himself…

Photography by Pete Summers and Motorsport Images.

  • FOS

  • FOS 2019

  • 2019

  • Carlos Sainz Jr

  • Formula 1

  • McLaren

  • Motorsport

  • M8D

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