Formula 1 Racing

Why Sainz thinks he “might have a chance” of beating his original F1 team mate · RaceFans

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Max Verstappen, 2015

Nine years ago, two fresh-faced, highly promising young rookies from Toro Rosso lined up on the grand prix grid for the first time ever as team mates, becoming the youngest ever driver partnership in the history of Formula 1.

Now, both drivers are in their 10th F1 seasons. Their paths may have diverged over that time, but now they find themselves both at the same track, Albert Park, on the same grid as their historic grand prix debut. Only this time, Verstappen and Sainz will be sharing the front row.

They have both been on the front row together before, of course – four times in fact. Intriguingly, three of those occasions saw Sainz on pole with Verstappen only having that honour a single time. But while Sainz won the first instance back at Silverstone in 2022, Verstappen has prevailed every other time since. Will he make it four on Sunday?

Neither driver likely expected to achieve the result they did heading into the qualifying session. Indeed, both probably expected Sainz’s team mate Charles Leclerc to at least extend his run of front row starts, if not take pole position.

Sainz and Verstappen started out as team mates in F1

Red Bull by no means looked slow over the three practice sessions in Melbourne leading up to Verstappen’s pole, but they did not look as comfortable as usual either. Verstappen regularly complained about his RB20 understeering around the low-grip Albert Park circuit, but appeared to have worked out his set-up problems at the perfect time.

Meanwhile, Sainz was not the Ferrari driver most people expected to be Verstappen’s closest challenger – himself included. After recovering from appendix surgery just two weeks ago, he has been frank about the physical challenge he’s faced so far and struggled to believe that he had even achieved a front row start. But he wondered how close he could have been had he been fully fit.

“I think today if I would have done 100% good job, pole position could have been possible,” Sainz said.

“And if I would have felt 100% – and I would have done Jeddah – I think that ‘15.9 was achievable with the way I was driving and the way I felt in the car. And tomorrow will be the same.”

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Although Sainz appears confident that Ferrari may be genuinely strong relative to Red Bull this weekend, Leclerc isn’t so sure.

Race restart, Albert Park, 2023
Late restart triggered chaos last year

“I think they had more margin than what we thought,” Leclerc admitted. “Because from turn…

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