Team mate battles 2020: The final score – Sainz vs Norris

2020 F1 season review

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For proof that you can have two team mates who are a close match in performance yet also get on well with each other, look no further than Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris.

In his second season as a Formula 1 driver, Norris was a closer match for his more experienced team mate. They performed at a consistently strong level over the course of the year, enough for the team to beat Racing Point to third in the constructors championship despite the MCL35 not being the third-quickest car on average.

Compared to last year, Norris contributed a greater chunk of the team’s points and led his team mate home more regularly. Sainz still had a slight edge on race performances, while Norris narrowly won the qualifying battle. This was about as close as team mates get.

McLaren’s reliability was generally improved compared to last year, though both lost points to occasional problems. Sainz’s season consisted of 16 races thanks to a power unit problem which prevented him from start at Spa.

With two drivers this closely-matched, McLaren must be regretting Sainz’s decision to join Ferrari next year. However, in Daniel Ricciardo they can expect a replacement who is every bit as competitive.

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Positive gap: Lando Norris was ahead; Negative gap: Carlos Sainz Jnr was ahead

Race-by-race summary: Sainz vs Norris

Carlos Sainz JnrQ
Lando NorrisQ

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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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29 comments on “Team mate battles 2020: The final score – Sainz vs Norris”

  1. Norris narrowly won the qualifying battle

    Does that include Bahrain, where Sainz was unable to set a lap time in Q2 due to a mechanical failure? Feel like that shouldn’t be counted in the head-to-head

    1. I think it only excludes qualifyings where a driver can’t take part in Q1.

      1. @hunocsi That’s weïrd. That means Stroll outqualified Perez in Abu Dhabi? Makes no sense to me.

  2. Their stats are remarkably close, reality is not, I hate to say this but Sainz jr was by far the strongest on Sundays and had a few unlucky saturdays. Sainz clearly lost more to luck, even if he did cause 2 of his own shunts. Lando’s early season haul of points and Sainz’s solid finishes towards the end make up for a stat wise very close season. A season of 2 halfs, Lando showed some life in Abu dhabi but he was one of the lucky benefactors of the early SC.

  3. It’ll be a shocking difference for Sainz I’m afraid, going from this team to Ferrari, when it comes to atmosphere within the team and fair treatment of both drivers. Not to mention the worst moment to join that team, as he’ll probably have a slower car as well. The worst of all might be the fact that he’s seen as a temp. solution only obviously, as they (Ferrari) hope to replace him with Mick in a couple of seasons. He’s one of the nice guys in F1, wish him the best.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      17th December 2020, 15:31

      Mick has to be better than Giovinazzi to achieve that. I don’t think Ferrari is willing to get a random number 2 driver into the near future. So far Giovinazzi doesn’t seem to be that obvious solution and we still don’t know if Mick will reach that. (I sincerely hope he does and he thrashes Mazepin from the beginning.)

      1. Then again this is the first time in a decade where a driver can join Ferrari and not have any pressure on them to deliver.

  4. I’ve really enjoyed watching these two on and off track. They’ve been incredibly close and yet, to my memory, have never collided or cost the team (like Perez/Ocon for example). In my opinion Sainz has more consistently had the slight edge over a weekend, but sometimes it seems Lando hooks it up and is untouchable.

    I think both of them could be in for a shock next year against Leclerc and Ricciardo respectively. It’ll be fascinating to watch.

    1. @ben-n it will indeed be fascinating to watch – personally I think it’s Leclerc and Ricciardo who might be in for a shock. Whatever, those moves together with Alonso returning and Mick and Tsunoda’s debut should make for a very interesting season, at least on the driver performance front.

      1. @tflb – it’s going to be a very interesting year to watch with a lot of very intriguing pairings. I’m particularly interested in Ricciardo/Norris and Leclerc/Sainz. I think Sainz could be in for a difficult year with Leclerc, especially given that Leclerc has bedded in with the team and has a long contract, but Ricciardo and Norris might be closer.

        I can’t wait!

  5. It was a close battle. Expect something more fierce next year.

  6. I already feel bad for Norris. I’m afraid his career will get destroyed by Ric just like Ocon.

    1. The differences are that Icon was New in the team and out of racing for a year, while Norris has been with McLaren for years while it’s Daniel coming into a new team

      1. I think new engine could dissolve much of Norris advantage, @bascb.

        1. That is nonsense @ruliemaulana. The engine is just as new for Daniel. But Norris will still know all the team memebers, how they work, how they do their setup and tuning etc. He is well loved and knows his way round. Daniel is incoming and has to learn the team. He will probably be loved too, but at the start he is an unknown factor. And they are for him.

          1. @bascb Really? Well loved? Ok, you win the argument.

  7. I think the Sainz/Norris duo proved what a team can achieve when 2 drivers work in concert to improve the team as a whole, especially a team like McLaren which seems to have lost its way massively.

    Usually when 2 drivers perform almost equally, it tends to hurt both drivers as we’ve seen with Algersuari/Buemi and Magnussen/Grosjean in the past where both drivers end up losing their drives permanently.

    The expectation was that Sainz was the more experienced driver who could deliver better results while Norris is the rookie finding his way within the team and matching or exceeding Sainz’s results. I think they both lived up to their expectations.

    1. I think you’ve also got to consider the fact that Sainz’s move to Ferrari was announced in May.

      You would therefore expect that McLaren kept out of the loop on much of the development that went on post that point.

      1. Same can be said about Ricciardo and yet

  8. Would the chemistry be different if they were going for wins ? If Mclaren make a step up next year and fight for wins/(or podiums) maybe the dynamic between the two drivers would be different for that reason and not just because of personalities

    1. Agreed. Compare the Hamilton/Rosberg friendship in 2013 to 14/15/16.

  9. Sainz has really proven himself but, as a McLaren fan, I can’t wait for the Ricciardo/Norris pairing.

  10. Carlos appeared the stronger driver most of the time. Lando has lot his star quality when compared to Russel but still a decent points getter. He should be a good support for Daniel next year.

  11. I agree with the season of two halves view. Norris had a good start whilst Sainz had issues with chassis and engine. Norris will need to step up his game next year. He has the speed occasionally, but needs to be a bit more assertive and ‘on it’ more consistently. Would have loved to have seen Sainz and Ricciardo together at McLaren.

  12. Next season will shape the future of both of these drivers. Whether Norris can match a Top driver in Ric and how Sainz measure up to Charles.
    I think Sainz is very Alonso like and will be very close to Leclerc’s points total by the end of the season while Lando will be soundly beaten by Ric.

  13. I’m a big fan of Lando, but I think Ricciardo will dismantle him completely next year both on and off the track.

  14. Again these two were evenly matched so those hyping Saniz must either rate Norris or it’s time to get realistic, but of course next year will remove all doubt when it’s up against Leclerc and Ricciardo.

    What struck me was how quickly Norris was on the game with a memorable drive in the first rounds, with Sainz coming stronger like a slow starter.

  15. Quali, finishing positions, and points makes this seem like an even race.
    But ‘laps ahead’ gives this one to Sainz in the end. But Sainz still needs to step up further (Lando remained an inexperienced teammate) if he ever wants to become a team leader like Lewis, Max, Ricciardo, or Alonso. And even though Leclerc had another up and down season, I don’t think Sainz is at his (high) level, and will have to settle for 2nd fiddle at Ferrari.

    Norris is developing well, although his improvements stalled a bit during the second part of the season. He might actually benefit from a stronger teammate like Ricciardo even if it might be as comfortable as it was with Sainz.

  16. McLaren: Can’t win against Racing Point in the cup semi-finals due to angry team radio incidents.
    Racing Point: Won the cup final against Toyota, but McLaren had their last laugh in the league.
    Red Bull: Sacked their manager for saying slurs, ultimately fell back.

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