2015 F1 driver rankings #12: Carlos Sainz Jnr

2015 F1 season review

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Carlos Sainz Jnr

Beat team mate in qualifying9/16
Beat team mate in race5/10
Races finished12/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate371/885
Carlos Sainz Jnr 2015 form guide

The raw stats show that Carlos Sainz Jnr had a very small edge over his much hyped team mate Max Verstappen in their first season of F1. Out of the ten races both drivers finished, each was ahead five times. But Sainz took a narrow victory in qualifying.

Sainz also bore the brunt of Toro Rosso’s persistent technical failures which hit him hardest at mid-season. In Bahrain, Austria, Britain, Hungary, Belgium, Russia and Brazil his car gave up before the end. On other occasions he made it to the end despite being seriously delayed by a glitch of some kind, such as his gearbox problem in China, although on that occasion he had already lost time with a mistake.

Despite allowing for all of this, Sainz didn’t shine quite as brightly as his team mate did, though he did produce some excellent performances. He qualified on the fourth row for his debut and took points despite a slow pit stop (though only two cars were running behind him). A combative late stint in Spain saw him pass Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat for ninth place.

Monaco was arguably his best result of the season. Stating from the pits after missing the weigh bridge during qualifying, he climbed into the points at the end after running 66 laps on the same set of tyres.

Sainz wasn’t able to hit the same heights as his team mate however, notably in the USA where a spin during the wet qualifying session put him on the back foot during the race. He took seventh place, three spots behind Verstappen, after collecting a five-second penalty. It was an eventful end to the season for Sainz who hit the wall twice in Singapore, collected a bollard while heading for the pits in Japan and suffered an enormous crash during qualifying in Russia yet impressively was well enough to start the race.

The final points difference between the pair exaggerated Verstappen’s superiority, but Sainz is definitely capable of keeping his talented team mate on his toes. A convincing display in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, where Sainz prevailed after Verstappen slipped up, underlined that point.

View race-by-race notes on Carlos Sainz Jnr

Australia – Qualified an excellent seventh but after making a good start he clipped Raikkonen, damaging his front wing. A disastrous pit stop then cost him half a minute and dropped him out of contention for the upper points places, and with four laps to go Ericsson demoted him to ninth. Nonetheless, he scored points on his debut.

Malaysia – Admitted he was at fault for not reaching Q3 but went on the attack at the start, making up four places. Ran fourth after the Safety Car period but was never going to keep the likes of the Mercedes drivers behind him. But he made his two-stop strategy work – he was the only two-stopper to score points besides Vettel.

China – A tough weekend for the Spanish rookie. Beaten by Verstappen in qualifying before a spin at the beginning on lap two left him last. Recovered to 14th by his first pit stop but a gearbox problem on lap 20 left him stranded on track, costing around 20 seconds. From that point on, points were never a possibility and he ultimately crossed the line an unfortunate 13th.

Bahrain – Bahrain was never likely to be a strong venue for the Renault-powered team so it was to Sainz’s credit that he got the car into Q3. Like his team mate, however, he was destined not to finish.

Spain – Having been unsure about his car in practice he found its handling transformed in qualifying and duly took a best-yet fifth on the grid. Spent most of the first stint being overtaken, but kept his cool and at the end of the race his tyres were still in good enough shape for him to pass Verstappen and Kvyat for ninth place.

Monaco – Would have started eighth he had not missed the weigh bridge in qualifying. His team then didn’t take the car for weighing, and the standard penalty of a pit lane start was applied. From there a huge 66-lap stint on soft tyres helped him grab a single point.

Canada – The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was new to both Toro Rosso drivers and Sainz prevailed in qualifying to the tune of two tenths of a second. He got ahead of Ricciardo for 12th, but the day was always going to offer little for the Renault-powered cars. “With all the fuel saving and lift-off we had to do, it was very difficult out there,” Sainz reflected.

Austria – Was a few tenths off Verstappen’s pace when the track was greasy on Friday, and a similar margin off in qualifying, where he set his car up with rain in mind. It didn’t arrive, but a quick start moved him up to ninth. Made a smart call on his own to stay out of the pits when he was told to, as Nasr in front had gone in, but when Sainz came in his pit stop was slow. A pit lane speeding penalty and an electrical problem finished off his chances.

Britain – “We knew Carlos would be strong as he had already tested here with us before,” said chief race engineer Phil Charles. Sure enough he was the only Toro Rosso driver in Q3, lining up eighth. But he made a poor start and slipped out of the points before an electrical problem ended his weekend’s work.

Hungary – Put Toro Rosso in the top five in final practice but stumbled in qualifying, unhappy with his car’s braking as the track conditions changed, and ended up 12th. Running sixth after the Safety Car period, yet another Toro Rosso failure forced him into retirement.

Belgium – Very pleased with his qualifying effort after sneaking the Toro Rosso into Q3. But for the fourth race in a row his car let him down, and after spending half the race toiling around at the back the team elected to retire him to save engine mileage.

Italy – Finally saw the chequered flag again after a string of failures in recent races, however a five-second time penalty for gaining an advantage when he went off at the start cost him a shot at a point.

Singapore – Hit the wall during practice on Friday and again in qualifying, wrecking his chance of joining Verstappen in Q3. In the race he suffered a repeat of the gearbox problem which had delayed him in China, but he was able to follow his team mate to complete a double points score for Toro Rosso – their first since Malaysia.

Japan – Driving at Suzuka for the first time, and unable to run in the dry on Friday, it was perhaps to be expected that he didn’t make it into Q3. He was trying to get in between the Lotuses when he hit a pit entry bollard, damaging his front wing, and ultimately slipped to tenth behind Verstappen.

Russia – His huge crash at turn 13 on Saturday appears to have been caused by driver error – perhaps a combination of it being his first flying run on a new set of tyres and the instability caused by the DRS closing in the braking zone. Happily he was uninjured and remained conscious which meant he was able to race. Despite admitting he felt dizzy early in the race Sainz picked off the slower cars and made it to the top ten, and the Safety Car allowed him to make a well-timed switch to soft tyres. His brakes failed to go the distance, however, and he retired after a second touch with the turn 13 barrier – fortunately a much lighter one.

United States – Crashed in qualifying but having started last he was tenth by lap two. Despite being delayed by a slow pit stop due to a wheel nut problem, and picking up a pit lane speeding penalty, he claimed points for seventh place. Moving across on Ricciardo in the braking zone for turn 12 was questionable, however.

Mexico – Was running well in the race until he picked up a tyre vibration after the Safety Car period and fell out of the points.

Brazil – He was distracted by an electrical problem during qualifying which meant his steering wheel display wasn’t working, and consequently failed to make it into Q3. His car failed seconds after leaving the garage before the race start, and after he was fired up in the pits he made it just four corners before the wheels locked solid, ending his race.

Abu Dhabi – After yet another breakdown in second practice Sainz got into Q3 and started the race well, passing the Williams drivers around the outside. That put the Toro Rosso rather higher than it was capable of running and he slipped back behind Massa before coming under pressure from his team mate. Both had to let each other past at different points but it was Sainz who came out ahead, though he lost the final points place to Grosjean.

Over to you

Overshadowed by his team mate, but definitely a very good rookie season for him as well. It’s a shame that in the two races where Verstappen scored his fourth places, Sainz was actually on par with him, but in Hungary he had a mechanical problem and in Texas he started from the back.

What’s your verdict on Carlos Sainz Jnr’s 2015 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “2015 F1 driver rankings #12: Carlos Sainz Jnr”

  1. Didn’t think I’d ever be saying this but Keith, you’re doing Sainz a disservice here.

    1. @hahostolze Indeed, unless Max is 11th (which I doubt very much). Sainz just hasn’t had the rub of the green, so to speak…

  2. RE the ‘COTD’. No evidence that Sainz was as good as Verstappen in the US. Case in point, race pace, Verstappen was dicing with the Ferrari’s whereas Sainz could only meekly follow at a distance. That’s not matching.

  3. @keithcollantine

    Out of the ten races both drivers finished, each was ahead five times.

    This is not correct. Verstappen did not finish in China. He was classified, but he did not finish, which is a marked difference. He was also comfortably ahead of Sainz and in the points when he had to retire.

    I get that there are lines to be drawn when drawing up the stats but I don’t understand the reasoning behind counting classified races instead of finished races.

    1. Ok then wow it’s 6-4 not the thrashing people make out.

  4. Sainz suffered dizziness during the Russian race, after telling docs he felt fine. Another point against him, sadly.

    1. He may have felt totally fine during quali the day before, we simply don’t know. Maybe you’re right but it’s not some definitive black mark on his record lol

    2. Sainz suffered dizziness during the Russian race, after telling docs he felt fine.

      And after medical staff at the circuit passed him fit to race.

  5. Sainz really had a good rookie season. But yeah, next to Verstappen it was hard to make a good impression. And technical issues certainly did not help him at all. I hope he gets enough time to grow at STR next year.

  6. The problem for Carlos is he entered the 2015 season having accomplished a season and a half of FR3.5, a season of GP3, two seasons of European F3 and several thousand miles of F1 testing. He was as ready as he was ever going to be, and had the seat at Toro Rosso not fortuitously opened up, he would have been in the same tricky “dead-end” scenario as Gasly or Vandoorne. Red Bull initially chose Verstappen over Sainz, so had Vettel not gone to Ferrari, it is doubtful if Carlos would have got a drive at all for 2015.

    Before this season, I said Sainz needed a consistent margin over Verstappen of at least 2/10ths to make up for Max’s experience deficit. He really needed to demonstrate his racing maturity over Max, but whilst he was faster on a number of occasions, it was probably not often enough. Of course Max is a formidable reference and a generational talent, but the manner in which Sainz crushed a commendable roster of drivers in FR3.5 in 2014 probably suggests he should be targeting a similar level.

    But you sense Verstappen’s development curve is steeper, and as the astonishing young Dutchman accrues more experience, he is only going to get harder to beat.

    1. This, essentially.

    2. Agree that Sainz should have been on top this year, given his extensive experience in GP3, WSR and countles hours of simulator time at Red Bull (he even moved to England for it) he only barely managed to win the qualifying battle and in all honesty that was mainly because of his teammate’s technical issues and engine penalties during qualifying.

      His race pace was generally slower than his teammate’s and of course he had some more technical issues during races but in the 9 (or 10 if you count China) they both finished he managed to score 15 points with a 7th place as best while his teammate scored 26 points and a 4th place as best.

      It is nice of Toro Rosso to say they are almost equal but if I was Sainz that would worry me more than ironing out all the silly rookie mistakes I made last season.

      In my opinion 12th place is deserved.

      1. @rossotoro He’s a lovely chap, but I won’t say I’ve ever been a believer. In GP3, he did not look like a man ready for F1 any time soon, with countless ragged weekends seeing him down the standings and winless at the end of the 2013 as teammate Kvyat took the title. He had Kvyat’s speed, but couldn’t turn it into consistent results. By contrast, it was exactly that which he did so brilliantly in FR3.5 in 2014. But that was a pretty isolated year in what was an otherwise sporadic career. I’ll be controversial: if I had been Helmut Marko, I would have given Alex Lynn the seat.

        To be fair, Sainz showed plenty of speed this year, and it would not surprise me at all to see him win a Grand Prix one day. But a championship? His race pace is concerning because that is exactly where his experience should give him an advantage over Max. That needs to improve for 2016, otherwise he can consider himself under pressure by a possibly GP2-title-destined Pierre Gasly. Not that I think Gasly is any better; Sainz’s only problem is he isn’t Verstappen.

        1. To be fair Sainz in his GP3/F3 period he had a hard time combining racing with finishing school, that probably influenced his performance.

          FR3.5 last year was his last chance to promote to F1, he was told he had to win it to earn promotion and apart from a few issues he did it in a dominating way, hence why he was so gutted when Red Bull announced Verstappen, he was lucky Vettel moved out and Kvyat got an early promotion or his dream of F1 would have probably ended right there and that would have been a shame as he has shown to be very capable.

          I do not think any of the Red Bull juniors would have done a better job, Sainz has shown more than enough to deserve a seat in F1 and we haven’t seen the best of him yet, he might not be in the league of his teammate but if I was Ricciardo or Kvyat I would look in my rear-view mirror for this guy also.
          My only ‘concern’ is his mental capability, he has shown a few cracks here and there (same as last year), I know the pressure has been very high but that is part of the game, you have to be able to deal with set backs and failures and like you say I can see him win races but I do not (yet) see him being a champion one day.

          1. @rossotoro – Well, Vettel didn’t have problem fitting in testing for BMW Sauber whilst he was doing his A-Levels in 2006!

            I am not sure about your final point. Marko failed to find room for two extremely creditable drivers in Antonio Felix da Costa and Alex Lynn – I don’t think it is inconceivable that either of them could have done a better job than Carlos this year. Ciaron Pilbeam described da Costa as “sensational” when he tested for Red Bull in 2012, and it is often forgotten that the Arden FR3.5 team were living on the breadline in 2013 having lost their Caterham funding stream. Since Arden could consequentially not participate in any of the in-season tests, or afford, almost all cars have, a new engine each weekend, we can safely say the drop-off in performance from 2012 was not all the Portuguese’s fault.

            However I think Alex Lynn especially has the potential to impress in a F1 car. He is, and always has been, an immensely cerebral driver, and generally, it is the most intelligent and mature junior drivers that make the transition to F1 most easily. He didn’t have Marciello or Rosenqvist’s pace in F3, but claimed a Macau victory regardless, and on many occasions in GP3 he didn’t have the pace of Stoneman, Kirchhofer, Eriksson or Stanaway, but remained unflustered on his way to the title. In many ways his junior career reminds me of Sebastian Vettel’s – often lacking the ultimate pace, but with an exponential learning curve. As favourite for next year’s GP2 title, now that Gasly is rumoured to be going to Prema, we can expect the fourth best junior prospect on offer (behind Vandoorne, Ocon and Rowland) to replace Massa for 2017.

    3. Sainz competed in FR 2.0, not F3.

      1. He did in 2011 and 2012.

      2. @tdog @rossotoro Yes, add FR2.0 and Formula BMW to that roster of previous experience.

  7. Von Smallhausen (@engelbertvonsmallhausen)
    11th December 2015, 14:06

    Raw data shows that Verstappen is on average about tot tenths faster in qualifying and on average 3 tenths on fastest lap times… It’s easy to “use” statistics to make a point that suits you. Raw data shows Verstappen made it in to Q3 more than Sainz even with more mechanical issues in qualifying. And Verstappen was in front most of the time Sainz DNF-ed.

    Sainz had a good season, but he had no edge over Verstappen whatsoever.

    1. What “raw data” can you show to back up your statement there @engelbertvonsmallhausen. Averages are no raw data either, they are cumulated into a value. Keith has shown us the data, has explained how he defined who was quicker which weekend etc, you just point to raw data without any explanation what data that actually is.

      And yes, Verstappen was the more impressive rookie. Keith writes as much in the article, and I doubt Verstappen is going to be in 11th right in front of his teammate. But that does not mean that he did not do a very good job as a rookie.

  8. I think everyone would be raving about Carlos if his teammate wasn’t so good. He had one of the best debut seasons and I seriously hope he doesn’t get the usual Toro Rosso treatment during next season(s), but advances to a bigger team.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

  9. He deserves higher up I believe.

    1. @xtwl during the summer break I did a survey elsewhere. Sainz came 12th. I placed him at 11. I’m planning to do the same survey and see what the differences in opinion are, but I think generally Sainz has had a stable year without much highs or lows and so he would probably still be at around the same position.

      I had Verstappen at 7, on average he came in 9th.

    2. I agree. He had an exceptionally good teammate to be measured against and I feel like it is not reflected enough here. He would probably have shattered all STR rookies, except Vettel and Verstappen, had he been paired up with another one.

  10. One of the things I’m looking forward to next season is to see how these two drivers develop.

    I expect Sainz to make quite a step forward wheras I suspect Max might fade a little in comparison. It’s not uncommon for the latest sensation to overdrive in their second season which could lead to more mistakes.

    If Sainz is as competitive as he seems he’ll spend the entire break working out where he can improve and both these guys pushing each other should give us some real highlights, even better than this year’s.

  11. The only thing Sainz has done wrong is make his debut in the same year and same team as the headline-grabbing-hype-monster-bred-to-be-a-racing-driver that is Max Verstappen.

    He had a solid debut season, made some mistakes, got some good results and suffered poor reliability. I think he is worthy of his driver and will do a good job and kick on as a driver next season.

    1. The guy had a rough year. First he is passed by Verstappen for a seat, while he did everything right. Then with a bit of luck he gets a seat and the renault is just a mess. I did found him a bit aggresive on track. Very curious how he develops. There is no question that he is a very fast driver.

  12. I think both Sainz and Verstappen will have a much better season next year with highly improved reliability thanks to the Ferrari PU. I also think it will be much closer between the two.

    Everyone is highly impressed by Verstappen (and rightly so) because of his development rate, which if it continues will make him one of the very best drivers on the grid. But a trend like this can quickly stall. I think there is still a change for Sainz to prove himself equal to Verstappen, but he needs to do it before the summer break next year, in order to convince Red Bull to allow him another year in 2017.

  13. The competition of Sainz might actually be that of Kvyat if one of either Ricciardo or Verstappen moves in the near future. With both of them it was there 6th season in Formula cars, however for Sainz it was his first year of F1 of course. The comparison between Kvyat and Sainz might there for be an interesting one to look out for next season.

    This season it looked like Kvyat performed much better under pressure (he had his moments, but recovered better from them). Small mistakes costing points were much more prone in the performances of Sainz (missing weighing Monaco, locking up at the restart Mexico, the plenty of pit mistakes, etc.). However at the race starts and qualifying sessions (although losing out to Verstappen almost every time when both hadn’t really problems later in the season, it was still only just), Sainz was much more convincing over the whole line.

    A big deal for Sainz next season will be if he can cut back on the silly mistakes in order to fall more in line with the rest of the field and Kvyat, and how he will handle the pressure again of Verstappen (the boy won 64 of his 65 kart races (3 years period) when he started competitive racing at the age of 7 and has kept performing very well every year after that too, and no way it will be any different next year).

  14. We dont give him enough credit.. Or do we, he beat both Button and Alonso..

    Good job, poor luck, totaly overshadowed by Max… But numbers suggest they were pretty equal.

    So I grade him to pretty close to spectacular.

  15. I dont understand why this guy is above Nasr when he finished the championship behind him, even with a clearly better car ….

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