Fernando Alonso has backed fellow countryman Carlos Sainz to have a “great future” in Formula 1.

McLaren signed Sainz as Alonso’s replacement for the 2019 season after the two-time world champion announced he was quitting the sport at the end of 2018 following a frustrating and uncompetitive second spell with the Woking squad.

Sainz was one of the standout drivers of last season as he helped McLaren secure fourth place in the constructors’ championship, while also claiming the ‘best of the rest’ tag with sixth position in the drivers’ standings. His maiden campaign at McLaren was capped off with a first F1 podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

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Sainz’s performances caught the eye of Alonso, who highlighted that the 25-year-old has long-impressed since making his F1 debut at Toro Rosso alongside Max Verstappen.

“Carlos is doing great, not only last year,” Alonso explained speaking to Sky F1 ahead of Sunday night’s Virtual Spanish Grand Prix.

“I think last year the whole team did a good season and Carlos was there in the right moment, in the right place. But I think from the very beginning, already for Toro Rosso, he was doing a very good job.

“He had Max Verstappen as a teammate at the beginning, which is never the easiest thing, and then he had Nico Hulkenberg in Renault, so he always had tough competition and he was always very, very competitive.

“I think it's great for the country, good for Spain and I think he will have a great future.”

Sainz is eyeing further improvements in his second year with McLaren but will have to wait with the 2020 F1 season yet to begin and suspended until July at the earliest due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.