For the Gran Premio Aramco de España di Formula 1, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s Spanish driver, Carlos Sainz, granted a long interview to the official programme, in which he talked about himself, as a person and as a racing driver. Here is what he had to say.
We hear you are a burger connoisseur… what makes a great burger? Where was the best you ever had?
I LOVE BURGERS! I guess a great burger is defined by the patty and the bun. The extra ingredients play their part too…but without a juicy patty and a perfect bun you will never get top marks! I try to have a burger in every city we visit. Melbourne definitely has one of the best I´ve tried.
What’s the attraction of golf? We hear you play off a 9 handicap, so do you think you could play professionally if you put your mind to it? Of course, we presume you are better than your fellow drivers on the golf course…
Golf is the perfect way to clear your head from all other things and just enjoy three or four hours outdoors with friends or family. A round of golf requires full focus and it can get super competitive. You play against others but also against your own handicap. I like that. However, to play at a professional level I would have to give up racing, and I don´t see that happening for a while! I like to see other drivers picking up golf. If they practice enough, I´m sure they will lower their handicap quickly.
Where did the interest in boxing come from? What weight would you make if you fought professionally? Who’s you hero boxer?
My performance coach used to work with a professional boxer and he learned quite a lot back in the day. Some years ago, we decided to introduce it in my training routines and I really enjoy it. It is a sport that requires strength and pushes your cardio to the limit. It is also very technical, so the more you boxe the more you want to improve. I guess I would be middleweight or super middleweight, depending on the diet…and the burgers! Nowadays I follow a lot Canelo Alvarez and Ryan Garcia.
You’re known for having a pretty intense work ethic. Did that come from your dad? What did he teach you about preparation and pressure?
My dad has been a great support for me throughout my career and I have learned many things from him. Attention to detail is something that he took to a different level back in the day and I have embraced since I was very young. I´ve also learned from him that there is no gain in dwelling too much on a bad result or celebrating too much a good one. In both situations, you have to analyse carefully what happened, learn, improve, reset and move on to the next race.
Caco, Rupert and yourself seem to have a very strong relationship on both a personal and professional level. How important is having people around you? Did working in a bubble make you closer, or did you want to kill each other?
I think having the right people around you is key for any athlete. When you have full confidence in your personal team you can focus more on the sporting side and that translates into better performance. F1 is very peculiar because we travel to an incredible number of countries in 9 months, so you get to spend a lot of time with your team. In my case, I think we have found a great balance between us. We know how to differentiate between work and leisure. We follow a very professional approach to the sport, whilst having fun and enjoying the experience along the way.
Not so long ago people introduced you as ‘the son of Carlos Sainz’, now it’s more a case of some will introduce your father as ‘Carlos Sainz’s dad’. How does that play out around the dinner table at home with your dad?
We don´t really speak about it to be honest. I guess it’s just natural. When you are a kid, you normally get introduced as “the son of” and years ago I still had a lot to prove in the motorsport world. Now things have obviously evolved, but I don´t really think my father gets introduced as being my dad! He has earned the right to be recognised as King Carlos! What I must say is that neither of us like the “Junior” tag that sometimes comes along with my name, and he has happily accepted the “Senior” tag to avoid it!
One of the risks in moving to Ferrari was going up against one of the sport’s most highly-rated drivers. You’ve done that with Max, Daniel, Lando and now Charles? Are you a masochist?
This is Formula 1. The best 20 drivers of the world are here and, inevitably, you are going to have to compete against all of them if you want to become World Champion, whether they are team mates or not. It´s just part of the game. If you are scared of going up against any other driver, you are just in the wrong sport.
You’ve made some brave moves in your career: leaving the Red Bull Programme, finding your way to McLaren, then joining Ferrari. Do you find it easy to make big career choices?
I think the key behind any career choice is a proper decision-making process. Once you have analysed all the possible scenarios, with the information at your disposal at that time, you can evaluate your options and decide what is best for you. Personally, once I take a decision, I fully commit to it. Only time will tell if that decision was good or bad.
Being a Ferrari driver is a notoriously high-pressure role and public criticism can be vicious. How is being at Ferrari different to driving for McLaren, for Renault, for Toro Rosso?
Every F1 driver has a lot of pressure, not only Ferrari drivers. The key is not how much pressure there is, but how you handle it. Ferrari is expected to be at the top because it is the most successful team in the history of the sport. We share the same goal, which is to be back winning as soon as possible, and that inevitably sets the bar very high. I turn that ambitious goal into motivation rather than pressure, and it gives me strength to keep going.
When you were a youngster, you frequently held up Sebastian Vettel as the ideal role model. Was that politeness, given your place in the Red Bull Junior Team, or was Seb the driver you really looked up to?
I´ve known Seb for many years and he has always been a reference in my career. I was doing endless hours of simulator at Red Bull Racing when he was winning World Championships and I learned a lot from his way of doing things, in and out of the track. He is definitely one of the best drivers in the history of the sport and I will always consider him a role model in many ways.
You came through the Red Bull junior programme when the competition was intense with Daniel and JEV, Dany, yourself, Antonio Felix da Costa. What was that like? Were you all in constant competition? Did you ever worry about not making it?
All Junior programmes are designed to identify the best young talents out there. Of course, it was constant competition but in a healthy way. You want to prove yourself at all costs and every time you jump in a car you want to beat the other drivers, whether it’s a race or a test or even in the simulator. Knowing how difficult it is to get a seat in F1, you always have that fear of not making it. But if you commit yourself to it, you trust in your talent and you put the work in, the fears disappear and you just focus on giving your best.
Are you superstitious? And which football team do you support?
I´m not a superstitious guy. I have several routines that I like to follow during a Grand Prix weekend, but given each country, circuit and paddock is different you sometimes have to change and adapt those routines. The doubt about the football team is offensive…REAL MADRID forever!