Carlos Sainz may not be underrated any longer but he does deserve a seat worthy of his talent


Never has Carlos Sainz’s stock in Formula One been as high as the present, with the out of a job for 2024 driver leading an emphatic Ferrari one-two at the Australian Grand Prix last weekend in an impressive audition.

The 29-year old, three-time race winner was announced ahead of the 2023 season that he’d be parting ways with Ferrari, with the Scuderia luring the prized signature of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes.

Speculation has been rife regarding Sainz’s future over the opening three rounds of the championship, even after the Spaniard sat out the race in Jeddah following appendicitis surgery from which he bounced back from in less than a fortnight to win in Melbourne.

Though, with the Formula One grid poised for a significant reshuffle ahead of 2025 and names such as two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, as well as surprisingly – reigning world champion Max Verstappen being bandied around – Sainz’s importance mustn’t be forgotten.

Carlos Sainz on the podium after the F1 Grand Prix of Australia. (Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images)

The question was asked in the press conference after the Australian Grand Prix, whether Sainz is underrated and if he gets the credit and the praise that he deserves?

“He’s one of the highest-rated drivers in the paddock,” was the response from current teammate Charles Leclerc – while former McLaren teammate Lando Norris agreed with that sentiment.

Sainz himself added: “I think people that know me or have shared a team with me or people that have worked with me, know me and I don’t feel underrated by the people that know about this sport. Then the other people that maybe don’t have an insight and don’t know as much. If they want to underrate me, I’m fine with that.”

Having arrived onto the grid in 2015 as teammate to Verstappen at Toro Rosso, there was a clear shadow over the Spaniard with all the hype fixated around the teenage Dutch prodigy – tipped to be Red Bull’s next championship winning force.

A prophecy indeed fulfilled, though credit perhaps not attributed to Sainz’s Max-beating performances in those formative days.

Matters weren’t aided when Sainz elected to break free of the Red Bull shackles and ply his trade at Renault in 2018, as he was comprehensively beaten by veteran teammate Nico Hülkenberg.

Though it was the two-year stint at McLaren which followed, that really brought the best of Sainz forward and the notion that this is a driver around which a team could be built.

Carlos Sainz won the 2024 Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Which for McLaren, following their post-Honda era – Sainz was a crucial element to start from scratch.

It was evident in the former world championship winning outfit, jumping Renault to fourth in the standings in 2019 and then achieving third overall in 2020.

Replacing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was unceremoniously dumped from Ferrari for 2021 – there was concern that Sainz would be consigned to playing second-fiddle to their own prodigious Leclerc.

A narrative, which largely seems to have been reported on ad nauseum throughout the Spaniard’s partnership with Leclerc.

Hence perhaps that underrated aspect comes to light – as Sainz’s all-round racing style and technical capabilities are overlooked by the public in favour of Leclerc’s raw speed.

The fact remains though, that since the introduction of the ground-effect technical regulations in 2022 – both Leclerc and Sainz have won three grands prix apiece.

The standout for the latter though, is he’s the only non-Red Bull driver to have won races since 2023. Yes, Ferrari and Leclerc have squandered multiple opportunities – but more emphasis should be put upon what Sainz has been able to salvage.

A balanced and mature racing attitude, along with a technical prowess should put Sainz atop any team’s wish list for 2025.

Though it cannot be stressed enough, the importance of the free-agent being assigned the spearhead role – instead of miring as a support act, which would likely be the case at Red Bull partnering Verstappen.

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What about Mercedes, Aston Martin or even the ambitious call to back-peddle to Sauber in preparation for a full works takeover by German automotive giant in 2026?

While Sainz will likely be on the grid in 2025 off the back of his heroics in Melbourne – the question remains where and whether it’ll be somewhere his value can truly be appreciated.

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