Carlos Sainz says he is ready to step up to a top team in Formula 1, an endeavour he feels has been given the boost by the remarkable success of former team-mate Max Verstappen at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Sainz and Verstappen made their F1 debut alongside one another at Toro Rosso in 2015, but while the Spaniard arrived in F1 on the back of title-winning success in the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship, his teenage team-mate had completed just a single season of car racing.
With Verstappen acquitting himself well in his maiden season, ultimately leading to his promotion to the Red Bull Racing team ahead of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix and subsequent sensational win, Sainz feels their relative parity at Toro Rosso shows he is capable of performing at a high level in a more competitive car.
“I think that Max and I were very close. It's not a secret, I think everyone could see it. The chance, I don't know if it will come or not, I just need to focus more than ever to impress Red Bull for them to at least say that 'here is someone ready in case we need him'.
“I think Max and I were always ready for a top team and I feel that I'm ready and I'm not surprised Max did well.”
Joined now by Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso team, Sainz doesn't feel it necessary to apportion team leader status between himself and his more experienced counterpart
“With the level of drivers there are here, there's not many team leaders out there. I wouldn't mind being one for sure but I don't feel like that and I don't think they need me to be one. I think they have two drivers that are really good and came lead the team together. We can both be good.”