Having courted the lion’s share of the headlines during the extended off-season hiatus with news he will move to Ferrari for the 2021 F1 season, Carlos Sainz nonetheless remains focused on the immediate task of maintaining McLaren’s momentum in 2020.

The British team enjoyed a positive upturn in form last season to secure fourth position i



n the constructors standings, while Sainz delivered McLaren its first podium in more than five years with a run to the rostrum in Brazil.

The Spaniard’s efforts have thus been rewarded with a plum drive at Ferrari for the 2021 F1 season, where he’ll replace the outgoing Sebastian Vettel.

For now though Sainz wants to finish what he started at McLaren and defend the team’s de facto ‘best of the rest’ status at the front of the busy mid-field battle.

“After a long and difficult time away from racing, it's finally time to get back at it,” he said. “It's been my longest period without competing since I started in go-karts many years ago! The MCL35 felt really good during winter testing, a positive continuation of what we had last year, so I'm very excited to finally compete this season.

“It’s also been an interesting period away from track, but now we’re back to racing I’m completely focused on the 2020 season.

With only eight rounds currently assured as F1 works to finalise the second-half of a compact calendar schedule, Sainz says the tight turnaround between races will make it more critical than ever to avoid on-track scrapes or mechanical issues.

“Due to less races in the calendar and the strong competition we expect from our direct rivals we can't afford to lose concentration. We actually don't even know the amount of races we are going to do, it's an unprecedented scenario, so every point we can get is absolutely crucial.

“As always, I will do everything to perform at my highest level and help the team. I've been keeping fit and ready to get back in the car, so I’m ready to hit the ground running in FP1.

“Last year we did well in Austria, having to battle into the points from the back of the grid due to a penalty, so we know there are plenty of opportunities for on-track overtakes. However, it's difficult to confidently predict our performance given the time away from track.

“The double header at the same circuit presents a new challenge for everyone and we need to make sure we extract the maximum out of it. I know that by the time the lights go out on Sunday, we'll be more than ready to fight for the best position possible.”