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Autosport 2021 Top 50: #7 Carlos Sainz Jr

5th in Formula 1 World Championship


A fine first year in red, where he managed the switch to a new team better than any of the other four drivers who made new homes in 2021.

He was shaded in qualifying by Charles Leclerc – no shame in that – but his performances against the clock got better as the year went on.

Of the two, he also at times displayed superior tyre management, something Ferrari really struggled with on occasions.

Front-row start and leading in Russia was the highlight, but also bagged four podium results and scored a sprint race medal in Brazil, which came after he spotted falling grid temperatures and so opted for soft tyres, which helped him beat a Red Bull.

Autosport says:

Carlos Sainz Jr’s start to his Ferrari career has been excellent.

Not only did he secure four podiums in a season where the Scuderia remained well out of victory contention, one aided by Sebastian Vettel’s Hungary DQ, but he pushed team-mate Charles Leclerc closer than many were expecting and helped the team edge out his former squad – McLaren – for third place in the constructors’ championship.

Being a Ferrari driver is a different prospect to racing for any other team. There’s intense scrutiny and expectations like no other, with a nation cheering on. But Ferrari insiders suggest Sainz has taken all of this in his stride – that he’s level-headed and mature and unlikely to change even if the team can get back to winning ways and challenging for championships come 2022 and beyond.

Sainz impressed with the way he adapted to his new surroundings

Sainz impressed with the way he adapted to his new surroundings

Photo by: Motorsport Images

A key reason for this is Sainz’s career progression so far. Adding in Ferrari, he’s raced for nearly half the teams on the grid and was highly-rated enough by another, Red Bull, that it backed him all the way into the championship. But that squad-swapping became a key strength for Sainz in 2021, when he (along with Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez) had to join a team and forge bonds there in the middle of a pandemic - the carryover car rules handing his team-mate an early advantage with only three days of testing available in his new car before the first race.

Sainz didn’t hesitate. He got himself a place to live in Maranello and ensured he had a strong working relationship with his engineers – including Riccardo Adami, Vettel’s former race engineer – before January was over. He did enjoy Ferrari being able to run a 2018 car to help him get up to speed with its procedures, where other drivers at new teams did not, but exploiting opportunities is a handy knack.

There were tough moments – such as his run of crashes from his qualifying shunt at Budapest to the big FP3 accidents at Zandvoort and Monza, which he moved on from by refining his weekend development process. That meant taking more steps and not trying to be too fast, too soon.

PLUS: How Sainz turned crash streak into his best Ferrari F1 weekend so far

It paid off with his starring Sochi role, while his overtaking in Turkey following his engine-change penalty was impressive. Ferrari is very much stronger with Sainz in its ranks.

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