2018 F1 driver rankings #13: Sainz

2018 F1 season review

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While Carlos Sainz Jnr wasn’t quite able to match his team mate’s points-scoring rate, he gave a good account of himself alongside one of F1’s most highly-rated midfielders.

Sainz may have started and finished behind Nico Hulkenberg in each of the first three races, but he bagged points consistently. Then when Hulkenberg crashed out in Azerbaijan, Sainz scored the team’s result result of the season with fifth (his team mate later matched it).

By his own admission, Sainz wasn’t happy with his qualifying performances in those opening rounds. He raised his game once the European season began.

After out-qualifying Hulkenberg for the first time in Spain (Sainz always goes well at home) he passed Marcus Ericsson brilliantly on his way to fifth.

He didn’t deserve to finish behind Hulkenberg in Monaco, but he scored again, and by France had taken points in seven of the first eight races.

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Beat team mate in qualifying 6/19
Beat team mate in race 4/12
Races finished 19/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 352/878
Qualifying margin +0.121s (adjusted)
Points 53

After a point-less lull – partly due to being taken out by Romain Grosjean at Silverstone – Sainz gave Renault their best qualifying result of the season with fifth in Hungary. Unfortunately he was forced wide at turn one and came in ninth – and next time out in Belgium he was eliminated in Q1.

By then it was known that Renault had pounced on their chance to sign Daniel Ricciardo. As they were previously courting Esteban Ocon, it seems unlikely Sainz would have stayed at the team under any circumstances, which doesn’t seem like a fair reflection on the quality of his performances this year.

He underlined that with a hard-fought point at Suzuka, a track which did not suit the car. Sainz signed off with a ‘best-of-the-rest’ finish in Abu Dhabi, after Hulkenberg went out in a first-lap crash. This was a respectable season for Sainz, but he’ll have to start over from scratch again at McLaren next year.

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Over to you

He more or less held his own, but all in all he was worse than Hulkenberg.

What’s your verdict on Carlos Sainz Jnr’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

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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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24 comments on “2018 F1 driver rankings #13: Sainz”

  1. Sainz was not only more consistent than Hulkenberg, he was one of the most consistent drivers as he finished in the points more than anyone else in the midfield. He also had a 5-race streak of making fantastic starts (Russia to Brazil), which played a decent part in the points he scored in that period (USA was especially incredible).

    I guess the most damning part of his season was the pace difference to Hulkenberg, though. Whatever problems he had with the car not suiting his driving style in comparison to Hulkenberg, the one thing you’d expect to see is his qualifying performances improve over the season, but come second half, save for USA, every time Hulkenberg’s outqualified him the gap was over a quarter of a second. And the only time he legitimately outqualified the Hulk i.e. Suzuka, the gap was around a tenth of a second and it’s safe to assume that Hulkenberg’s crash in FP3 affected his performance a bit (he was 0.3s slower than Sainz in sector 1 alone). Carlos was much closer in the first half of the season.

    He was much closer to Hulkenberg on race pace overall, but he benefitted from his teammate not having a great second half in terms of results. He is obviously a good driver but I think he has to be careful against Norris next year.

    1. Sainz had a good start in Singapore as well.

    2. @neutronstar if anything Sainz is wildly inconsistent. Renault is consistent, in that their car was consistently good enough to score points. Sainz has always been either off or on: when he’s on, he’s almost as good as the top guys. When he’s off, he’s field-filler. His season was weekends of on and off. His car was simply good enough most of those to secure points even when he was off (and with Hulk having far more of the unreliability)

      1. @hahostolze I agree with what you’re saying, but I meant consistent in the sense of dependable. Sainz did have a better second half in terms of points scored, even though he was even slower in comparison to his teammate than in the first half. Nico had two or three unnecessary crashes which meant he scored less points than he should have. When it comes to who was more consistent in terms of speed, the answer is definitely Hulk.

  2. Gasly ahead of Sainz is a little unsettling. Did Pierre really punch above his weight ?

    1. Gasly finished a couple of races well above the car’s weight. I recall a 4th in Bahrain, a 6th in Hungary and 7th in Monaco which i believe we can give to Pierre, since his teammate never seemed capable of finishing that high, and the car was pretty average all season.

  3. I’m pretty sure Sainz and Magnussen performed better than Bottas this season..

    1. Agreed.

    2. @jesperfey13 I would say so. gasly is going to be too high too. there’s a fair chunk of decent but not inspiring performers to come (vettel, raikkonen, ricciardo, gasly, ocon, perez) and bottas a real struggler in what was probably the best car. leclerc, hulkenberg had great seasons, alonso was alonso (as ever) and verstappen’s highs outweigh his lows (kind of the opposite of grosjean). hamilton was just peerless.

  4. I think Sainz’ end of year results are flattered somewhat by Nico’s retirement rate – I suspect the points difference would be considerably higher if he didn’t have 5 extra DNF’s (though I know at least 1 of those was his own fault!).

    I expect him to go “full Fernando” next year and get just as vocal, angry and inpatient as his out-going compatriot…

    1. but Sainz won’t have the respect that Alonso enjoyed at McLaren, nor does he have the skill that elevates him to such position. I expect a close fight with Lando from mid-season on and McLaren will realise they made a mistake and basically were left with a midfield driver that isn’t as good as people claim and a rookie.

      1. @johnmilk Whatever you think of his talent level, Sainz is far from stupid. He won’t act Alonso because he knows he doesn’t have Alonso’s standing as one of the all time greats. Alonso could get away with murder because he’s Alonso. Sainz would be shown the door for a quarter of things Alonso did. So he won’t do them. And re: LN let’s see how this goes vs Norris, he’s not a polished talent yet ala Leclerc

      2. @johnmilk I don’t think Sainz will do that. After I heard the F1 podcast with him I get the feeling he has his feet on the ground, and knows he’s not in a position to do what Fernando does. Wether he will provide results is a different story.

  5. Decent performance overall despite not quite being able to match Hulk although the difference in points would probably have been more significant had it not been for Hulk’s DNF rate as pointed out above.

  6. I ranked Sainz 14, so it is that different from this. I disagree with some arguments however, there were instances where Hulk just made Sainz look ordinary. And if you look at the stats that is plainly evident, plus he was able to outscore his teammate even though he had 5 more race finishes, that is a lot

  7. For most of the season you were left wondering how Carlos Sainz was going to lead ‘top team’ McLaren next year. At some point it became clear, though not through Sainz’ level, but through McLaren’s.

    1. ruthlessness. I love it

    2. @hahostolze I keep re-vising your comment, the simplicity yet eloquent way how you managed to level both Sainz and McLaren is worthy of COTD for me.

      Sorry had to say this

      1. +1 Damning both with faint praise.

      2. Good for you cause I haven’t really understood what that comment means!

        1. @esploratore It means that, on the basis of Sainz’s season, you wouldn’t expect him to be leading a ‘top team’ like McLaren next year. Only you now realise that McLaren’s form is so bad, it makes sense that Sainz would be their leader.

      3. @johnmilk haha, you’re making me blush

  8. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    12th December 2018, 13:45

    this comment in the article about sainz brilliently passing ericsson is incorrect. I pointed it out after spain. Sainz was stuck behind Ericsson lap after lap. the footage was showing them the whole time this was happening pretty much. Ericsson then boxed. Then Sainz passed. The graphics also didn’t indicte that it happened earlier than this, so i don’t get how this overtake that didn’t happen keeps getting mentioned. If it was just a mistake once, that would be ok. But pointling it out as a highlight of his season is a bit much. I can’t find a video anywhere of this overatake and when i looked back on the race i recorded, it didn’t happen there.

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