Heavy rain poured over Monaco ahead of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, soaking fans, teams, drivers and the iconic road circuit.
After a delay of over an hour, drivers finally pulled out, racing against the clock as red flags riddled the crown jewel. They were looking for dry lines and trying to find grip. Monaco is widely known as a track where overtaking is incredibly difficult given the tight quarters between the barriers. With heavier cars thanks to new technological regulations this season, it proved a difficult proposition and the rain didn’t help.
Carlos Sainz Jr. sped past the pit lane, possibly trying to pass Sergio Pérez. But his Ferrari F1-75 found a wet part of the track and his instincts kicked in as his rear began to slide. Sky Sports announcers said: “His father’s rallying experience came into play for him” and described it as “the saving grace of the season”.
But that’s Sainz Jr.’s natural ability, having grown up racing; That’s why he says: “Engines, tires, petrol are in my DNA, in my veins.”
Sainz Jr. has emerged as a hustler, who sidelines his car with a calm temper and flashes his parents’ flashes. His methodical approach was influenced by the advice of the two-time World Rally Champion, while his calm temper and empathetic nature came from his mother’s advice. And there was an era when he might have been to good on the grid, his rivals knock him off the track in his early teens.
His father’s advice? Look, in this sport you either bite or you get bitten. So start biting.
Eight years, 147 F1 races, 10 podium finishes – Sainz Jr. made his mark when he was dubbed “the son of Carlos Sainz” during his karting years. Although he comes from the premier class of racing, it wasn’t easy for the “normal boy from Madrid”. He had to find his footing, overcome the defining moment many athletes face and navigate a multitude of teams to end up at a powerhouse like Ferrari.
And even with a competitive car, Sainz Jr. still finds his rhythm.
“This season – it’s difficult. Let’s say I haven’t had a race so far this season that I’m particularly proud of.”
Believe it or not, Carlos Sainz Sr. wasn’t the one who gave his son his first car.
The two-time World Rally Champion was coming home one day to find his 2-year-old hurtling down the driveway in a battery-powered car, drifting and spinning like a natural. Sainz senior asked, who taught his son the tricks? Who put him in the car? Carlos Jr.’s godfather, Juanjo Lacalle, gave the future Ferrari star his first car.
“I could barely walk, but I could drive,” says Sainz Jr. “And I think it has to be part of something inside us.”
The young rider had big shoes to fill throughout his career, starting with overcoming the doubts and shadow of his star dad. nicknames El Matador, Sainz Sr. became the king of racing in Madrid when he took the World Rally Championship twice and finished second four times in his legendary career. He has made more starts in the series than any other driver and eventually retired from WRC in 2004 before his son started racing.
The following year, Sainz Jr. entered the karting circuit and although it is the entry level for motorsport, he was synonymous with his father. He compared his experience to what it will be like for Tom Brady’s sons as they follow in their father’s footsteps.
“Every kid and dad on the teams you play will be keeping an eye on you to see how they’re doing, right? And how this little guy, Tom Brady’s son, does at every football competition,” said Sainz Jr. “I felt the pressure of 10-15 years. All of a sudden you’re competitive, you’re doing all these go-kart races and you feel like everyone wants to beat you. Everyone’s checking how you’re doing. you have no name You are the son of Carlos Sainz.
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“You’re not Carlos Sainz. You are the son of, the son of, the son of. They say: “Carlos Sainz’s son made a mistake. He is not good. He’s only there because of his father.’”
But as he rose through the ranks, the young Spaniard began to make a name for himself and saw the positives. “He gave me so much good advice that can’t be bought from his own experience as a double world champion,” says Sainz Jr. “So I’d much rather take the, shall we say, bad things for the good things than usual.”
Most would have expected him to follow his father’s footsteps into the rallying world, where Sainz Sr. still competes from time to time, most notably the Dakar Rally. But another driver also caught Carlos Jr’s attention growing up – Fernando Alonso, who won the Formula 1 World Championship with Renault in 2005 and 2006. Carlos Jr. drove to his first F1 race when he was 10 and the sport was easier to watch on TV compared to the rallies.
“Although the rallies were huge in Spain back then because of my father, I fell in love with Formula 1 and told my father that I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver.”
A make-or-break moment changed the trajectory.
Towards the end of the 2013 season Sainz Jr. competed in the GP3 circuit and although he enjoyed success he said he had to win the following season if he was to have any chance of making it to Formula 1. “That was probably my last chance to actually make it into Formula 1,” he says.
Sainz Jr. drastically changed his approach to the sport, not only in racing aspects but in his demeanor as well. “Those were the foundations of who I am today, this change in approach that I made this year.”
Now don’t get him wrong – it wasn’t that the Spaniard didn’t try. He says he thought he was preparing, paying attention to detail and shaping his methods. But during the winter season leading up to 2014, Sainz Jr. began reassessing his approach.
“I’ve actually seen that there’s a lot more I can do. I thought I was doing a lot, but then I realized it’s actually not that much. If this is my passion and my work, I can actually do a lot more.”
Twenty years, six months and 14 days.
A decade after taking his first steps in go-karts, Sainz Jr. made his F1 debut in 2015. But he did more than just start – he finished ninth in his very first race and took points from Melbourne for Toro Rosso (now known). as AlphaTauri). And the rest was history.
He stayed with Toro Rosso until 2018, making the jump to Renault before replacing childhood hero Alonso at McLaren a season later. He snagged his first F1 pole in Brazil and would bring home another for McLaren from Monza in 2020. Sainz Jr. may have clinched just two podiums in two seasons with one of the most historic teams on the grid, but he caught Ferrari’s attention when he became competitive in midfield.
Over the years, he’s learned that this is one of those sports that “is a little less dependent on the athlete.”
“There are so many other factors that come into play within the sport. There are the machines, there are so many people involved in the sport, there is an hour and a half race, pit stops, strategy calls. It’s a very complex sport, really hitting everything,” says Sainz Jr. “And you, as an athlete, maybe you’re doing a great job, and then suddenly there’s a day where you have a flat tire and you’re DNF, and you don’t finish the race and it’s a zero and you did a great job. Just like you could suffer a lot on track one day and not have a great day, but two people in front of you stop with problems and then you get a good result.”
While he may have four podiums this season, including second at Monaco, the 27-year-old also recorded back-to-back DNFs at Melbourne and Imola. He said ahead of Monaco: “Nothing has really clicked for me this season and there isn’t a single race that I would say I’m 100% proud of. I’m quite demanding with myself and I know when I’ve given 100% and when I’ve got 100% out of the car and myself. Six races this season, I wouldn’t say I’ve driven any of them.”
Camera clicks, team members chatting and fans shouting driver names echo in and out of the paddock, sending the stars swarming on their way to the hospitality suites or garage. Fans lean over the barriers to lure drivers to autographs, others block them for a photo.
There’s pressure beyond what happens behind closed doors for these drivers and it follows them off-track. While they can ignore the hate circulating on social media, fans often stop drivers for selfies on the street in their free time, regardless of whether they know who the driver is or not.
Sainz Jr. wishes people would stop and ask: How’s it going?
“There are too many superficial approaches to the phone these days, and just because five people want to take a picture with me doesn’t mean you want to take a picture with me just because I’m famous,” Sainz Jr. says. Instead of doing that, come and ask me how, why are you famous? Like, what are you doing? And I’ll be very happy to answer that I drive for Formula 1 and that’s why people take a picture, but you don’t want a picture with me because you don’t know who I am. just say hello to me Say, “Oh, great. I will follow you from now on and it’s a pleasure to meet you.’
“That would make my day because there are so many people who don’t actually know you that just because they think you’re famous, they come and take a picture for their Instagram and then send it [to] her friends. But they don’t realize how painful it is sometimes to take another, another, another selfie, another selfie with people who might not even know who you are.”
Who is Carlos Sainz Jr?
“I’m just a normal kid from Madrid, Spain, just enjoying being a Formula 1 driver. … I consider myself very fortunate that I made it into Formula 1 first and then went through different teams to make it to Ferrari. And now actually having a competitive car to be able to fight for podiums and victories in Formula 1 is a dream come true. But the biggest dream is still to come – namely to become a Formula 1 champion.”
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