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Sainz: Positive spirit at McLaren is infecting me

Carlos Sainz will be the team leader when McLaren roll out their cars onto the Barcelona pitlane for the start of Formula 1 preseason testing in February, but this does not faze the 24-year old Spaniard who is wallowing in the positive energy that appears to be embracing Woking.

On the occasion of McLaren’s partnership announcement with One Plus in London, Sainz told Spanish reporters, “It is strange to call myself a veteran when I am 24 years old.”

“It is good for my career that I am considered an experienced and solid driver, which McLaren considers me to be. I feel ready to lead the team during these two years of my contract.”

He went on to reveal how he is familiarising himself with his new team, “I want to keep moving forward, so I go to the factory a couple of days a week. I like to know what is happening and to be in contact with the people here.”

“I see everyone there very motivated and eager for next year. After a difficult year, they have learned from the mistakes. I see everyone impatient for next season to start, this positive spirit is spreading in the factory and also infecting me.”

McLaren were plagued with a dreadful car last season and consequently, there has been a revolving door of key personnel changes as Zak Brown attempts to resuscitate the operation, while no one really knows when James Key will be able to join as technical director.

Hardly encouraging conditions right now. Only time will tell if they will reverse the slide, but at least there is good spirit in the ranks despite a trying season for everyone connected to the team.

Young as he is, Sainz is under no illusions of what lies ahead and how long it will take to be contenders again, “If we call competitive to fight for the World Championship or podiums, then next year is too early because this is Formula 1.”

“The goal McLaren have is to be in the midfield. It does not mean that it will happen next year, but it is a realistic target.”

While his compatriot and childhood hero Fernando Alonso has called time on his Formula 1 career, it appears the elder statesman will still have a role within the team and with his protege, “I spoke to him after the [Abu Dhabi] test to exchange opinions.”

“I think I’ll see him one more time before the end of the year and we’ll have more time to talk about details, rather than the few voice notes we exchange.”

Alonso’s departure makes Sainz the only Spaniard on the grid next year, “It’s a privilege for me to be the only Spanish F1 driver who flies the flag all over the world. I put the pressure on myself knowing that I want to do as well as possible to show how I appreciate the support of my fans.”

Sainz has big shoes to fill as he steps up when Alonso rides off into the distance with long gone Stoffel Vandoorne, and in rides young Lando Norris all spruced up and ready to prove himself.

Keeping his rookie teammate at bay is likely to be Sainz’s first hurdle, while the kind of car they produce at Woking will determine exactly how challenging the season will be for the new combination. It will also reveal if their modest midfield targets are over-ambitious or not.

Big Question: Is Carlos ready to lead McLaren back to the top?