Carlos Sainz Jr. doubts former Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen blocked a potential move up to Red Bull’s senior Formula 1 team for 2019, feeling his decision to join Renault last year acted as a bigger blow to his chances.

Sainz was in contention to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull Racing in 2019, only for the team to opt to promote fellow Red Bull junior programme member Pierre Gasly from Toro Rosso into its senior F1 team.

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One theory for Red Bull’s decision to pass on the more experienced Sainz in favour of Gasly was the possible impact on Verstappen, with whom Sainz enjoyed a close rivalry during their season together as teammates at Toro Rosso in 2015.

Speaking on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Sainz said he did not feel Verstappen would have influenced Red Bull’s decision and blocked his possible move up to the team for 2019.

“I don’t know, but I would say no. I don’t think drivers really have an effect on that,” Sainz said when asked if Verstappen could have denied his promotion.

“It is a very difficult question you could ask him, but I think as we got on well and we have a rivalry of course, I wouldn’t think he would go to Helmut [Marko] or to Christian [Horner] and say: ‘No I don’t want Carlos.’

“First of all, because the moment you say that, you sound weak, if you to go a team boss and say I don’t want him as a teammate, you already sound weak. Secondly, I don’t think he ever really said that.”

Asked about his relationship with Verstappen at Toro Rosso prior to the Dutchman’s promotion to Red Bull four races into the 2016 season, Sainz said it was a misconception that the pair did not get on well.

“It’s one of the big enigmas of the paddock. Everyone thinks me and Max hate each other, and that’s absolutely not the case,” Sainz said.

“We were having fun that year, I promise. We were having a lot of fun out of the track. In the track, we were extremely competitive.

“We knew we were battling for our careers, for our Formula 1 pedigree on our first year, rookie season. I got on with him a lot better than what people think.”

‘I KNEW I WAS LOSING RED BULL CHANCE’

Sainz explained how his decision to leave Toro Rosso with four races remaining in 2017 and join the factory Renault team would have been a bigger blow to his chances of a Red Bull move, but said he was aware of this being a possible consequence.

“I thought the most likely thing was that they ended up getting Pierre, so I started looking for other options,” Sainz said, having agreed to sign with McLaren for 2019 shortly after Red Bull confirmed Gasly.

“What is true that the moment I left Toro Rosso to go to Renault, I knew I was losing chances to go to Red Bull.

“It was part of my decision, of the decision, of the thinking process, that I don’t want to do a fourth year with Toro Rosso, I want to go to Renault because Renault was interested in me at the time.

“I know that if I go to Renault, if there is space at Red Bull in a year or two’s time, I’m losing credit to go there because I’m abandoning the family in a way.

“But in the end, I’m convinced that it turned out to be a good decision for myself, and I’m very happy to have gone to Renault first and to have an opportunity to drive for McLaren next year."

 

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