Carlos Sainz realised just about every race drivers dream, a call-up to drive for the fabled Ferrari team but now that the fanfare has faded he would be forgiven a bout of second thoughts.
The Spaniard signed up for the Reds in good faith no doubt, but little did he realise the mess that was going to mushroom not long since the ink dried on his contract that sees him leave McLaren and drop into the garage beside Charles Leclerc, with Sebastian Vettel unceremoniously shown the door.
His future team are enduring a torrid Belgian Grand Prix weekend, their cars only good for the seventh row, a mile off the benchmark pace and no clue how to dig themselves out of the hole of quicksand any time soon.
In stark contrast, McLaren after their own recent upheaval has been steadied and revived by Zak Brown’s appointments. They are more often than not better than their engine suppliers Renault.
At the same time, Carlos is enjoying a rich vein of form since receiving a new chassis. In qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday, his best time of 1:42.438 in Q3 was impressive in that it was two tenths quicker than teammate Lando Norris, the Englishman normally closer.
Sainz knew it and said in his team report, “A good quali for us today. We got off to a solid start with a good first lap in Q1, which allowed me to stay in the garage for the second run and carry two new sets of Soft compound tyres into Q3.
“There, I put together another two good laps to extract the maximum of our car today. P7 gives us a good chance to fight the Renaults tomorrow, who unfortunately were a bit out of reach for us today.
“We’ll also keep an eye on the weather radar because in Spa the conditions can change very quickly. Today was a good day, but the job isn’t done yet!”
With volatile and unpredictable micro-climates that swirl around the Ardennes, rain could be a factor but, unlike some of his rivals, Carlos does not want rain in the race.
He explained, “In order to qualify well we decided to go super low [with downforce. If it rains tomorrow… we are in trouble! But at least we try; at least we are there in the middle of the fight.”
At the end of a long day at Spa, after the team briefings, Carlos may take a moment to reflect on how his next team fared on a tricky day and will learn:
- His future teammate Charles was 13th; Sebastian Vettel who he replaces was a couple of tenths slower in 14th;
- Compared to last year’s times the Reds have lost about half-a-second in their package during the past 12-months while their (non-Ferrari-powered) rivals have found an extra two seconds or more;
- The best time by a Ferrari driver on the day was 1:42.996 by Leclerc; Carlos’ best effort was 1:42.438, seven-tenths the gap between a customer team and the mighty Reds.
The crisis at Maranello will not have gone unnoticed by the Sainz camp, as they have closed the door on a team that respect and value the 25-year-old; where he has relative harmony with Lando in the other orange car and, perhaps most important of all, reunite with Mercedes next year.
Even if there was an escape clause for Carlos to opt-out of his Italian job, McLaren will welcome Daniel Ricciardo to the fold in his place. The door shut for the foreseeable future. He has to go live his new dream.
Sainz has matured as a driver, grown in stature during his tenure at Woking. Here’s hoping that road well-trodden by predecessors to Maranello does not turn into disappointment – if not a career breaker – as it has been for the majority of drivers that have donned the Red race suits of the Scuderia.