“Carlos Sainz Jr: This has been the best learning year“

Formula 3 Euro Series.

Despite all the benefits, there are certain drawbacks to being a Red Bull-backed young driver.

With such backing and support come pressures that lean heavier than the weight of most championship battles.

The absolute need to be victorious becomes an obsession, sometimes to the detriment of a driver’s focus at a time when they should be learning.

If one is fragile in any way shape or form, results may not come as desired and Red Bull – sadly for many a driver – are not known for their patience.

Indeed the scrap heap is large – the latest discarded member is Scottish Lewis Williamson, who was dropped by the programme in July, after being unable to deliver results in Formula Renault 3.5, despite battling with a weakened car.

One driver currently walking the tight rope is Carlos Sainz Jr. The Spaniard – who only turned 18-years-old last month – enjoyed something of a topsy-turvey season in Formula 3 this year.

With one season of the category under his belt with the Carlin Motorsport squad, Sainz Jr ended the British F3 championship 6th overall, with the Spaniard coming 9th in the F3 Euro Series standings.
Sainz Jr topped this off by finishing 5th in the returning FIA European F3 Championship.

Yet amongst some stunning drives this year – Sainz Jr helped himself to four victories – there were too often a number of races where the Carlin racer was either caught up in someone else’s accident or tripped upon the side of bad luck.
There have also been several anonymous drives and an occasional inability to turn hot practice pace into a key qualifying run, dumping the Carlin man in the centre of a tight midfield.

One can be certain that following a successful 2011 season, Sainz Jr was wishing for far more to celebrate than four victories.
There is no denying that the pace is there, especially in difficult conditions – his drive to victory in the extremely tough final wet race at Spa-Francorchamps in July was a case in point; however there is no doubt that performances such as that need to shine through more often.

Last week’s Euro Series finale at the Hockenheimring was a fairly indicative of Sainz Jr’s season. After showing some positive pace in practice and qualifying, he was taken out of both feature races, but struggled to progress in the shorter sprint event.

The Motorsport Archive: That was a very unfortunate incident on the first lap of race three (F3 Euro Series; Hockenheimring)

Carlos Sainz Jr: “It’s amazing y’know. The amount of bad luck or bad circumstances… I hope some day, there will be payback.”

TMA: In the first race, there were touches of bad luck here and there as well.

CSJr: “I’m always thinking ‘what could I have done to avoid them?’. I was just battling with [Raffaele] Marciello and [Bernstorff] was miles away, missed the breaking point and hit my tyre.
“[In race 3] again, I was hit from miles behind [by Lucas Auer]. Of course they say ‘sorry, it was not my intention’, but…”

TMA: When you look back on this year, how do you view how you have developed as a driver and what do you feel you’ve learned as a person?

CSJr: “Everyone knows that Fortec has had a better car, but because they were all rookies, they were not experienced and that’s the difference.
“It’s not easy to arrive to a team and know that you need to win and develop a car also. For me it would have been much easier to, for example, arrive last year and have that car, have the set up and go and just drive.

TMA: At least now you have bagged a season where you experienced real car development.

CSJr: “This year, I’ve learned loads of different things in terms of set up and developing the car – for the future, this has been the best learning year.

TMA: It’s sometimes easy to forget that you are still a young guy. Do you now go into 2013 with a different outlook?

CSJr: “Yes. It’s difficult, because when you are young, you are always looking at results, results, results and you just want to win, win and win.
“This year in the Euro Series, it was completely out of our reach. We needed a miracle to be on top, but it is difficult to be used to winning for the last two seasons and then you arrive, get in the car and are automatically half-a-second slower.
“It’s difficult for the mentality to keep up and say ‘now I have to give the maximum’, but I have. Sometimes my patience didn’t work and maybe I did mistakes and I didn’t know how to realise this.”

TMA: What can you take from this experience?

CSJr: “Of course, I have a different perspective now. I passed through a difficult year where I realised that in motorsport you don’t depend on yourself, but you also depend on many other circumstances.
“I have learned a lot thanks to the team – this is the best place to learn and I’ve learned a lot of things. For the future, this is probably my most important year. To suffer and to rise up again, when maybe you don’t have the fastest car.”

TMA: Obviously there are other factors involved, but next year will you be looking to come back to Formula 3 again?

CSJr: “It doesn’t depend on me as you may know; that depends on Red Bull and what they decide to do with me…”

TMA: Is that frustrating?

CSJr: “Yes of course it’s frustrating, but you feel so lucky to be in that platform with that future. You feel that if you do it correctly, there is a good opportunity. It’s frustrating sometimes when you don’t know what’s going to happen – you are all the season waiting, waiting, waiting and I haven’t a clue, really a clue what’s happening.
“It’s Macau and after that, they will decide. If it’s Formula 3, it’s welcome because it will be my second year and I am in the correct place to fight for a championship.”

TMA: It will also be the second year with this car.

CSJr: “Yes, and I trust Carlin. They won the British (F3 Series), but not with the fastest car, but with the best engineers and the best everything, but World Series (by Renault)… I’ve no idea. Again it would be a year of learning, because I will be one of the youngest – I don’t mind, but I would prefer some wins.
“On the other hand, there is [Robin] Frijns – I was battling with him last year in the races and had more poles than him and suddenly in F3, I am nearer the back and in [Formula Renault] 3.5, he’s winning.”

There is no doubt 2013 will be a big year for Sainz Jr. Admittedly a chunk of me does hope he hangs around Formula 3 for the season, if only to learn more about the series and car development.
Having only turned 18 such a short time ago, there is still plenty of time for him to move to Formula Renault 3.5; however Sainz Jr tested with them at Barcelona last week, ending the session 4th behind Marco Sorensen, Arthur Pic and Marcus Ericsson.

Before that though is the magic that is Macau…

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