Passion

As the first Formula 1 race weekend of 2022 begins in Bahrain, we talk to Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr about the influence his father has had on his career
Words: Davide Marchi
Photography: Mattia Balsamini

From Antonio and Alberto Ascari in the 20s, through to Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Graham and Damon Hill, Keke and Nico Rosberg and, most recently, Michael and Mick Schumacher, Formula One is full of legendary father-son dynasties. 


But the case of the Sainz family is more unusual. Carlos, who made his Formula One debut in 2015, joined Scuderia Ferrari this season. Like many of the above-mentioned racers, he too has a father with an illustrious racing pedigree. But this time the son will not be able to match the father’s driving feats. 

Carlos Sainz senior advises little Carlos the ambitious karter 

That is only because Carlos Sainz senior is a legend in the world of rally driving, so it would require an unusual change of career path on Carlos’ part, the kind which very few racers have ever tried and which almost always ends disappointingly, even for greats like Kimi Räikkönen. In an impressive career spanning nearly twenty years, Sainz senior was twice world champion and the winner of some 26 rallies and has yet to hang up his racing helmet.

Proud father Carlos Sainz senior has guided his talented son's career to the pinnacle of Formula One. The closeness of their bond is as strong today as it has ever been   

“He is a force of nature who never stops,” says his son. “He continually pushes you to always raise the bar. He is someone who, when he stopped rallying, decided to switch to rally raids and managed to win the hardest event of them all, the Dakar rally, three times,” explains Carlos. “And he’s going to take part in it again in 2022.” 

 

This year, at the age of 59, Sainz senior embarked upon a brand-new adventure, competing in Extreme E, driving very quick electric-powered SUVs. “My relationship with him has always been very intense,” affirms the 27-year-old Madrileño. “My father doesn’t know how to stand still and, for me as a child, that meant always being pushed to do more. When I first got keen on karting, he supported it and motivated me and was fine with the fact that I would not be following in his footsteps.” Now established in Formula One, Carlos is candid about the challenge of bearing that Sainz name. 

Carlos Senior, the two-time rallying world champion is not ready to hang his helmet up just yet, aiming to compete in next year's Dakar rally


“It has always been an honour,” he stresses, “but at the beginning of my career it was also a burden, but that’s not his fault!” Of the racing world he says, “Industry insiders and the Media can be cynical and at the start of my career there were plenty of people who were insinuating that I was only there because I was the son of a champion racer. In that period my father spurred me on and helped me to give of my best. That’s how I was able to show, through my results, that I deserved the career that I was carving out for myself.” All that was a long time ago. “I’d say I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet since then,” he says, with a relaxed smile. “But it is still fundamentally important to me to know that my father is by my side!”

 

Sainz senior is a discrete presence, at home as in the paddock, but remains a central figure in the life of his son, as Carlos reveals in an anecdote about signing for Ferrari. 

 

“I will always remember the day we closed the deal. As always happens, we had to work on various drafts of the contract, having lots of meetings, and with emails going back and forth between Madrid and Maranello. Plus, everything had to be done via video call because Covid meant that it was impossible to travel. That morning, I got up at eight o’clock and my father told me, ‘Grab a pen, the Ferrari contract has arrived. And you have to sign it.’ I was still in my pyjamas,” laughs Carlos. “But I signed there and then!”