Sainz: Difficult to compete with rivals getting help from bigger teams

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz has hit-out at some of his midfield rivals, suggesting the close partnerships they enjoy with front-runners makes them “difficult” to compete with.

The Spaniard, who finished sixth-fastest with 161 laps completed on the first day in testing in Barcelona, was none-too-pleased to see some of the cars that will be challenging his team’s “best of the rest” status show-up looking eerily similar to race-winners from last year.

“You can see some of the smaller teams getting a lot of help from the bigger teams. So if they come here with a car that is very similar to last year’s Red Bull or to last year’s Mercedes, it is going to be very difficult for McLaren to do that [big] a step,” he told RaceFans.

“So we don’t depend on what the others are doing. We depend on what we can do. And at the moment we can only focus on ourselves, keep doing the steps that we’re doing. Like the [MCL]35 car hitting the track and doing a lot of laps, and feeling the car already a step better than last year on the first day, and opening windows of development.

“That’s the only thing we can do at the moment and we cannot think in what the others are doing.”

One of the major take-aways from Wednesday, much was made of the similarities between Racing Point’s RP20 and last year’s Mercedes W10, while AlphaTauri’s AT01 has been openly described as a facsimile of last year’s Red Bull.

Nevertheless, Sainz maintained he is happy with the performance of his MCL35, while reiterating that the goals of his team remain far loftier in the long-term.

“We hit the ground running this morning. We were into our run plan very quickly and the positive thing is that we completed every single lap that we had planned for,” he said. “Basically we couldn’t do more laps because there are not more tyres available. We didn’t have a single problem in the car of reliability, which meant we ended the day doing pit stop practice and some starts with not much more do.

“So I’m very, very happy and the feeling with the car was positive also. It was quick out of the box, I was feeling comfortable with it and we hit the track and started testing things very quickly.

“A team like McLaren always has pressure to deliver. McLaren is one of the best teams in the history of Formula 1 and we know that fourth, fifth is still not where McLaren wants to be.

“But McLaren also knows that this is still very early on this new project that we have put ourselves and we are looking at the medium-longer term target of fighting for the top positions again. It’s very difficult to say at the moment.”