Carlos Sainz may not have enjoyed the rapid acceleration to a race-winning seat that former team-mate Max Verstappen got with his promotion to Red Bull Racing, but maintains the Dutchman's exit from Toro Rosso has had no bearing on his own form.
The pair came into F1 at the same time, forming a young rookie partnership in Faenza in 2015, before Verstappen got the biggest break of his short single-seater career when he was called upon to replace Daniil Kvyat at RBR. A win first time out in Barcelona, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, has done little to quell the myth surrounding the young Dutchman, but Sainz refuses to let himself be caught up in the drama.
An inconsistent debut campaign kept the Spaniard out of the wider limelight, but was largely considered a match for his illustrious former team-mate in terms of raw pace even before Verstappen was snapped up by Red Bull.
Having now racked up eight points finishes for STR in the twelve races held so far this season, Sainz insists it is a record that would be no different even if Verstappen was still alongside him.
“I think it's irrelevant,” he said of Verstappen's exit, “It's totally irrelevant because, at the end of the day, my race shouldn't be affected by others. If Max was here or not, I would have still scored the same, we would still be as close as we were in every qualifying and every race, but the result would have been more or less there every weekend. I don't think it would have changed much.”
Verstappen's exit – combined with Kvyat's lacklustre performance after moving in the opposite direction – have served to heighten awareness of Sainz's results, but he says that it was only misfortune that denied him the same potential last year.
“Things that were happening to us in Russia, or like the pit-stop in China, were really out of our control and, suddenly, these things stopped all of a sudden in Barcelona and now we keep having these strong results,” he pointed out.
“Last year, I kept telling people 'be patient, my moment will come - this bad luck is not normal, this bad run of reliability is not normal and I am confident that, if this stops, you will see what I'm capable of'. And now, after understanding the car over the first few races and after getting rid of that black cat that was following us since last season, it's finally coming.”