Austrian former professional racing driver Helmut Marko, currently an advisor to Red Bull, has drawn a comparison between the performances of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso, stating that the Spaniard is a “top driver.”
The two Toro Rosso rookies in 2015
Both drivers, nurtured in Red Bull’s young driver program, were teammates in 2015, marking their debut season in Formula 1.
This is an aspect that some, like the Austrian, have considered on multiple occasions as a “problem” in Carlos Sainz’s tenure at Toro Rosso.
No one wants to be second to anyone, even in a mid-field team, especially when it involves two drivers with great potential. While Max Verstappen had already secured the seat he currently holds at Red Bull, Carlos Sainz had a more complicated path to joining a top team, transitioning to Renault and then McLaren before landing at Scuderia Ferrari in 2021, where he replaced four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Helmut Marko’s comments
However, according to Helmut Marko, Carlos Sainz is not that far behind the three-time world champion: “Carlos is certainly a great driver. He was almost on par with Max at Toro Rosso; he was just unlucky to have Max as a teammate.”
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“The atmosphere between the two of them at AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso was quite toxic. With the situation back then, I couldn’t see a way to keep him with us, so he moved on to Renault, then McLaren, and then Ferrari.” – he pointed out.
“[Max, note] For a long time, he lived in the shadow of his father. He was unfairly burdened by the image of being a spoiled driver’s son, while Carlos, on the contrary, had to constantly fight to move forward.” – the Red Bull advisor added.
But the truth is that Carlos Sainz demonstrated from a young age that he had the skills to secure a spot on the Formula 1 grid: “He was very fast in the junior categories. In his first F1 test at Silverstone, right from the start, he was slightly faster in fast corners than Sebastian Vettel, who was our benchmark at the time,” concluded Helmut Marko.