Carlos Sainz has conceded that Fernando Alonso is the more likely of the two Spanish representatives on the grid to next stand on the top step of a Formula 1 podium.
Having recorded 33 victories and two Championship titles in his opening 12 years in the sport, unfortunate career choices and uncompetitive machinery have meant Alonso has not won an F1 race since triumphing in front of his home fans in May 2013.
However, the 41-year-old’s surprise move to Aston Martin for this year has coincided with the Silverstone outfit establishing itself as a front-running force, with Alonso scoring three successive podium finishes to open the season and heightening optimism he could land an elusive win in 2023.
Sainz followed in the footsteps of his childhood hero by converting pole position into a maiden F1 win at Silverstone last year, marking a new record for the most races by a driver before securing their first victory.
However, Ferrari’s competitiveness dwindled beyond that point as only one victory followed in the remainder of the year, and the Italian stable’s struggles beyond the summer break last season have continued at the start of the latest campaign.
The Ferrari driver, therefore, admits that Alonso is better placed with Aston Martin to add the 33rd win of his career than he is to register his second.
“I think Alonso’s 33 will come before my second victory,” Sainz told Spanish television station Antena 3 Deportes.
“The Aston Martin is superior to the Ferrari in race trim, so he is closer to victory.”
But Sainz, who has repeatedly highlighted he routed for Alonso growing up, has urged fans to get behind his compatriot’s bid to end his near-10-year wait for an F1 victory.
“If I were at home watching F1, I would be supporting Fernando’s victory,” he added.
Before Alonso burst onto the single-seater scene at the turn of the millennium, Spanish motorsport had generally been more intertwined with motorbike racing.
However, the nation’s interest in car racing grew as Alonso rose to prominence, becoming the first Spanish driver in F1 history to win a race in 2003 before going on to clinch successive Championship successes in 2005 and ’06 with Renault.
Although more wins followed at various teams across the intervening years, Alonso was unable to add a third title, despite appearing in contention at the final round across three of the next six seasons.
The birth of a new engine regulation cycle with the 1.6-litre six-cylinder turbocharged powertrains replacing the 2.4-litre V8s began Alonso’s plight from being a recognisable name at the top.
Ferrari’s disastrous beginning to the rules overhaul resulted in Alonso abandoning faith in his dream of delivering the Scuderia to the pinnacle and a shock return to a McLaren side where he departed after a singular year in 2007 following an acrimonious time alongside Lewis Hamilton.
However, McLaren’s return to Honda power failed to recapture the glory days of its previous partnership as the alliance was hamstrung by the Japanese manufacturer’s failure to provide a competitive or reliable engine in three years to rival that of the benchmark Mercedes unit.
As Alonso’s frustrations repeatedly spilt over with the uncompetitive state of McLaren-Honda, Sainz became Spanish motorsport’s next emerging talent with backing from Red Bull.
The Madrid-born racer was overlooked for a promotion to a Red Bull seat four races into his second season in favour of Max Verstappen, eventually electing to leave the stable to pursue an opportunity with Renault and then McLaren.
A strong debut season with the Woking-based team paved the way for Ferrari to come calling before the 2020 season got underway when the Italian outfit opted to dispense with Sebastian Vettel once the four-time World Champion’s contract expired at the end of the year.
Sainz embarked on his first season in the historic red of Ferrari as Alonso earmarked his return to the sport that he had chosen to leave behind at the close of 2018 to tackle other racing disciplines.
The exit of Sainz from McLaren to Ferrari opened the door for the British team to fill the vacancy with Daniel Ricciardo, which in turn facilitated Alonso’s comeback with the Renault-owned Alpine team.
The two-time champion returned to an F1 podium for the first time since July 2014 at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix late in the year but was on the move again after a frustrating second season with the Anglo-French side riddled with reliability issues.
Meanwhile, Sainz enjoyed the opportunity to compete regularly at the front for the first time in his career in 2022 with a resurgent Ferrari making the most of the newest technical regulations.
Ferrari’s regression and Aston Martin’s revival, however, has seen Alonso and Sainz contest track position for the first time since the latter debuted, with the more experienced Spaniard coming out on top in their shootout for the final podium place in the closing laps in Bahrain.
The pair clashed at the first corner during a late red flag restart at the last race in Australia, resulting in Sainz landing a five-second time penalty.