What started off as an internal joke at Toro Rosso is becoming reality: Carlos Sainz Senior and Jos Verstappen will be taking over the cockpits of their respective sons and partaking in FP1 during the forthcoming Chinese Grand Prix.
Toro Rosso are on the verge of announcing ‘Project Papa’ which they are proudly trumpeting as a publicity stunt to add much needed fun factor into F1. A press release announcement is due to be distributed to media before the weekend.
The press release (which Grand Prix 247 has a copy of) states: “In an effort to inject some fun and human interest into Formula 1, Toro Rosso along with Red Bull can confirm that rally legend Carlos Sainz Senior and former F1 driver Jos Verstappen will participate in FP1 on day one of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Friday 10 April.”
Insiders explained that the idea emerged from the marketing gurus, who hover around the team, and found it amusing to listen to the Sainz and Verstappen (of senior variety) bantering on about ‘my son is quicker than yours’ in the Toro Rosso camp.
The pair are reportedly pretty competitive about their rookie siblings and the driver pecking order within the team. From this emerged an idea to have the fathers in some sort of contest, which evolved into ‘Project Papa’ – which got the nod from high up in the Red Bull chain of command – whereby the two dads would go head to head in a Toro Rosso F1 car.
A source close to the team explained, “This idea then developed into a Jos versus Carlos in their son’s cars during FP1 in China. The idea was bandied about and eventually the FIA and FOM agreed that the project would generate a great deal of interest at a time when the sport is suffering an image problem and not appealing to a broader audience.”
To fast track the project, the issue of super-licence was quickly dispensed with as the FIA were quick to dispatch with the formalities and both Carlos Sainz Senior and Jos Verstappen are cleared to drive in FP1. Word is the project got approval from the highest level very quickly.
As for their sons, Max Verstappen was quick to embrace the idea and was on board from day one and was seen coaching has dad in Malaysia. However Carlos Sainz of junior variety needed convincing as he felt he was losing on valuable track time. He was taken aside and made an offer he could not refuse, upon which he solidly backed his father taking over the cockpit of car #55.
The team itself will have their work cutout on the day. Although Jos will easily fit into his son’s cockpit, little Carlos’ cockpit will need to be extensively rearranged to accommodate big Carlos. But the source said that engineers and mechanics have embraced ‘Project Papa’ and the spirit of the publicity stunt which will no doubt attract most welcome exposure for the team.
The fathers will use the helmets of their sons, as they are wired for the team’s comms which will be a must during the 90 minutes practice session in Shanghai.
Carlos Sainz Senior is a legend in motorsport with two rally world championship titles on his CV, and 26 rally wins at the highest level and 2010 winner of the Dakar Rally.
Jos Verstappen is more of a legend for his tantrums when his son did not win in karting, but to his credit he did contest 107 grands prix, finishing on the podium twice.
The pair, who have been practicing to learn the Shanghai track on their son’s Playstations, are this weekend expected at the team’s Faenza HQ where they will go through a crash course on the nuances of the STR10 and also spend time on the simulator.
According to our source, “Toro Rosso, through Red Bull’s marketing arm, will announce ‘Project Papa’ before this weekend.”
Note:This story was written in the spirit of April Fools and not an ounce of it is true. Thanks!