Carlos Sainz Jr. says his two-year McLaren deal has allowed him stability, and the advantage of being able to look longer term, for the first time in his Formula 1 career.
Sainz Jr. stepped up to Formula 1 as a Red Bull junior driver and was on rolling one-year deals with Toro Rosso, prior to a switch on loan to Renault for the last rounds of 2017, remaining at the team for 2018.
Sainz Jr. signed a two-year deal with McLaren last August and has emerged as Formula 1’s lead midfielder this season, holding seventh overall, 13 points clear of Kimi Raikkonen.
McLaren duly confirmed Sainz Jr. for 2020 in the build-up to the British Grand Prix – while announcing Lando Norris would also stay on – and the Spaniard says the continuity is a boost.
“What I can tell you is working with a team you know you’re going to spend more than a year with, definitely the team’s approach towards you – knowing that you’re going to be driving that car next year – developing the car, asking things to develop as a driver, 1-1 with the car, it’s definitely a difference,” he said.
“You can see on a medium- or long-term deal how the whole team and driver works a bit more together.
“I think you’ve seen it this year with a few drivers that it does take a bit of time to adapt to a new car nowadays in Formula 1, or to extract the last two tenths of a car.
“Sometimes in a new team it’s not always easy to find the limit of a car and exploit it consistently.
“Having that extra year gives me that extra calmness and confidence to know I’m going to spend a few years here and the engineers are going to also respond to it.”
Sainz Jr. was a member of the Red Bull junior programme through his junior single-seater career, only leaving the scheme upon joining McLaren for 2019.
“Under the Red Bull programme you always feel pressure, in the same way in McLaren you feel pressure to deliver because it’s McLaren,” he said.
“At Red Bull I was on a contract that renewed every year. I think sometimes it is underestimated how much it’s a boost for a driver to know you’re going to be there for a couple of years so you can settle in, find your way with a car, with a team.
“I think there’s always examples out there to look at. I think it’s the best way to perform as an athlete is with a bit of stability.”