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Man in the news: How will Carlos Sainz find the step up to Renault F1 team?
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Sep 2017   |  7:01 pm GMT  |  168 comments

The first piece of the jigsaw around the shift of engines and drivers involving McLaren, Honda, Toro Rosso and Renault has fallen into place with the news that Carlos Sainz is believed to have been released by Red Bull to sign for Renault, one of the conditions of the move.

So what does this mean for Sainz and how will he fare against Nico Hulkenberg next season – or sooner if Renault and Toro Rosso can agree terms for their new drivers to get some outings before the end of the season?

Sainz, who turned 23 last week, has spent three years at Toro Rosso making 53 GP starts and in that time has secured 25 points finishes, so roughly 50% of the races and 100 points in total. With the poor reliability of the car in 2016 that is not a bad return. His best race result to date is the four sixth place finishes, which have all come at low speed circuits, Singapore, Hungaroring and Monaco, which may say as much about the engine he’s been using as his driving technique.

He is 9th in the championship, which is the highest for a Toro Rosso driver since Sebastian’ Vettel’s breakthrough 2008 season, when he finished eighth.

His best grid slot is 5th in the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix. He is 7-6 with Kvyat this year in the qualifying comparison and compared favourably with Verstappen in qualifying when they were team mates in 2015.

In this he will be up against a great benchmark in 30 year old Hulkenberg, who has shown this season again that he is a strong qualifier. Hulkenberg’s race performances haven’t always lived up to his qualifying pace and this weekend in Singapore he could well end up with the unwelcome record of being the most experienced F1 driver never to score an F1 podium – 129 Grands Prix.

The move to a manufacturer backed team is positive for Sainz who is desperate to move on in his career and to show what he can do. Renault is on a rising tide with greater investment from the car company. Although the engine has lagged behind the Mercedes and Ferrari units since 2014, the gap continues to narrow and there is every reason to believe that next season Renault will fight in that space behind the top three teams.

“I think we’ve had quite a successful year,” Sainz said in Monza, “We’ve been pushing hard all year to get into the points and the result of that is whenever we finish, we finish in the points, so hopefully we can keep that statistic going.” He didn’t manage to do that in Monza, which became the first race he had finished outside the points in 2017.

When I asked Hulkenberg in Monza what profile of driver he felt would be ideal for Renault alongside him, he said. “I think they just want a good competitive driver package. I’d be happy to race with anyone, alongside anyone. For me, I’m obviously focused on myself and make sure everything is moving in the right direction there with me.”

He did also joke when asked if Sainz was the right man for the job, “23 is too young, sorry!”

The pairing will allow Renault to score plenty of points next season. But Renault is currently in a tight midfield battle in the Constructors’ Championship and the intriguing question is whether they might want to put Sainz in early to try to boost their finishing position.

Currently Renault is 8th on 34 points, with Haas on 35, Toro Rosso on 40 and Williams on 55. While Haas could be beatable, it would not be in Toro Rosso’s interests to facilitate a swap that means they finish 7th instead of 6th in the championship, which would also cost several million in lost prize money.

The rise of Pierre Gasly
Sainz’s move after three years with Toro Rosso, means that there could finally be an F1 seat for 21 year old Frenchman Pierre Gasly. He would join Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean (French but with a Swiss race licence) as one of three French drivers in the 20 man grid. That’s quite a turn around from a few years ago when there was no French driver on the grid.

F1 is still popular in France, with the French GP set to return next season at Paul Ricard, although the TV coverage is exclusively behind a paywall in France on Canal Plus. That deal has just been renewed from 2018-21 and has seen the audience for live F1 races slashed from around 4 million on free to air network TF1 down to around 750,000.

However Canal Plus’ owner Vivendi also owns the C8 free to air station and retransmitted the Monaco GP this year as an experiment, to an audience of just over 1 million.

A year ago Gasly was distraught to learn that Toro Rosso was retaining Daniil Kvyat for the 2017 season, saying he didn’t understand the decision. He was sent to compete in the Super Formula Championship in Japan, where he has won the last two rounds and is in contention for the championship with two further rounds to go, including a double header at Suzuka to finish with.

That last event is on October 21, meaning that he could complete the SF season and make his F1 debut in Mexico, with Brazil and Abu Dhabi to follow.

Or he could race F1 in Malaysia on October 1 and Suzuka the following week, where he has already raced Super Formula this season, then skip Austin to do the Suzuka SF double header. Red Bull tends to like its junior drivers to complete the series that they have invested in, especially in this case with the championship title achievable for Gasly in his current form.

Gasly has extensive F1 experience, having done much of Red Bull’s 2017 tyre development testing for Pirelli last year and has driven a Red Bull F1 car as recently as the Hungary F1 test on August 2 (above), just before the summer shutdown.

The F1 Sporting Rules allow a team to use a maximum of four drivers in a season. If Gasly were to start early but then miss Austin. Red Bull would be able to draft in another driver, provided he qualified for an F1 superlicence at that point.

This is also a consideration for Honda protege Nobuharu Matsushita to get a run out as part of the deal. He would not qualify for a superlicence at present, being short of the 40 quaifying points in three years necessary, but there is a further F2 round at Jerez before the Austin race and then the season finale at the Abu Dhabi GP.

If Honda want to push for Matsushita to race for Toro Rosso in 2018, Red Bull would have to figure out what to do about Gasly and Kvyat.

What do you make of the latest moves in the F1 driver market and of Sainz at Renault? Leave your comments in the section below

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As a McLaren fan, I’m intrigued to see what it looks like compared to Red Bull with the same engine. Hoping it’ll be the “big 4” instead of the “big 3” we keep hearing about.
Feel sorry for Honda relationship which could’ve offered much more.
Surprised there isn’t a full article on the breakup on this site too, it’s big news??


I’m tired of these engine supply debacles. The regulations have got to change to allow independent engine suppliers. The manufacturers in the this hybrid era have ruined the integrity of the racing for me. I don’t see the point of teams competing when they are hobbled from the start. That’s not sport, and true sportsmen would not stand for it.


Brilliant move by RBR. Put Honda with the Jr. team and let them show you they can build a competitive engine. If they can; RBR drops a Honda into the back of its car in 2019 and beyond.


turns out it’s renault dropping redbull altogether after next year..


“Hulkenberg’s race performances haven’t always lived up to his qualifying pace”
Not sure it’s really true. He’s generally fast, consistent, and has very good racecraft. Intelligent stats would be good to see.


Put up or shut up time for Kvyat.

No disrespect to PAL but I hope the teams find a way for SAI to move in 2017. Kvyat then has the opportunity to stamp his authority on any incoming hotshoe and step up to leading a team. If he doesn’t do that then I think its Formula E, Le Mans or Touring Cars.


A note of caution: this does not yet appear to be a done deal, despite all the media speculation. One or two items on one or two websites seem to have disappeared, and there have been no announcements from anybody yet. Swapping drivers around at this stage of the season when Toro Rosso are, I’m sure, keen to defend their sixth position in the constructors championship, does not appear wise.

There’s a bit of a frenzy over who might take who’s place, so it would be a hoot if all the deals were done only for Alonso to sign for Williams to get the Mercedes PU.


Why not put Robert instead of JP this year, get some points, considering he might be around Hulk speed due to long time out, and get Carlos next year. That will keep everybody happy and give Kubica time in track to show himself 🙂


“Why not put Robert instead of JP this year, get some points…”

This assumes the No 2 R.S.17 suddenly becomes reliable!


Driving is a partnership between the man and the maquina. We can assume some bad luck, but you can see more reliable drivers on the grid. If it is just luck then Ricardo would have won the lottery 10 times. You have to feel and listen to the car… I don’t think JP has it, sorry.


The most interesting part of this post is the fact that taking F1 behind a paywall in France has reduced the audience from 4m to 750,000. How can any of the sponsors or teams be happy with this ?

It’s an indication of what is going to happen when Channel 4 gives way to Sky’s exclusive pay-tv coverage in the UK. If the new F1 management had any sense it would do what is necessary to sort this out now.


Sainz to Renault is great! He’s had plenty of time in Toro Rosso. Kvyat now needs to lead in 2018 and take it easy with the hot headedness. It’s 2018 or never for him.


Sainz will beat Hulk eazy!


An ideal situation for:
i. Carlos
ii. Toro Rosso
iii. Red Bull
iv. Pierre Gasly
and probably:
v. Honda
An incredibly bad situation for:
a. McLaren – now being effectively run by a driver with (to say the least) unproven management experience of a modern F1 team
b. Alonso himself, much like the drowning man, pulling everybody within his grasp down with him!
c. obviously, Jolyon Palmer – who knows what the machination of F1 (of which I am usually very critical) have contributed towards his appearing utterly out-of-his-depth in F1 (maybe he’s the best racer since… since… Fernando Alonso?!?)

The biggest loser:
Zak Brown a joke of a team principle, having his team run by a driver, and apparently incapable of ‘guts’ and sticking to a strategic plan; should be fired at once!

Red Bull win world championship in 2019-2020 (at the latest), with the game-changer PU developed by Honda during its time with McLaren (and Mercedes stopping development of their PU aligned with plans to leave F1 as a constructor to focus on their FE team).


Not sure is I’d agree that Zak is a joke but the impression that I get from his statements is that there are brighter more clued up people posting on internet forums!


@ Warley…surely you can’t be serious?


not entirely – I did use the word “impresssion” and added an exclamation mark but I think he is one of the less impressive F1 front persons on racing related topics at least.


Good for Sainz..

So Honda doesnt get a say who or not it can supply engine?


Or this is just a driver switcheroo and Mclaren will stay with Honda.


Domenicali, see resurgence in Alonso in 2018. What if McLaren get Renault engine which got quite competitive and find that, its not have a car which they claims that have one of the best in business. It may be a very good car but Honda engine have not pushed it to the limits, if this will be a case McLaren won’t have any place to hide.


Is being good, reliable and well regarded enough to keep a seat in F1?
If so Hulkenberg may fit the role, though I thought it was more about being great, dynamic and pushing boundaries. Or are you saying all the drivers on the grid are great and its all about the car???

And if it isn’t, then what is it we have seen from Hulkenberg?
Think I can only really recall one moment, which was for Sauber in Korea back in 2013, where he kept Hamilton and Alonso behind. But the podiums remain out of his reach. A few glimmers of hope when leading a race at some time in 2012 and at the race in Azerbaijan this year where he had a genuine chance and he screwed up (again, when under pressure?).
Look at Perez in the same Force India car made it to the podium 4 times!
And Perez doesn’t appear to be rated WDC material by many…
So yeah, congrats Hulkenberg – You will be the new record holder on Sunday!
Taking over from another good, consistent German driver called Sutil, who unfortunately is more remembered for his Shanghai nightclub assault conviction than F1 podium results…


There’s a heck of a lot of assumptions being made here. It’s all guesswork until official announcements are made. Personally, I hope McLaren stay with Honda, and Alonso can do what he wants. He’s a great driver but he should retire from trying to manipulate the entire industry for his own benefit. There are many young thrusters out there gagging for a go.

søren christensen

@Regis. Well first Toro Rosso get 6 Million EUR for letting Sainz go to Renault. Then they get free engines – and a load of sponsoring from Honda, Plus, I bet you, an agreement to sell the team to Honda within 2 years.
They get Matsushita as new driver from 2018 instead of the hopeless Kvyat.
And not to forget: The management at TR get a much more peaceful time, than they have now with the constantly moaning Sainz, and the erratic and crashing Kvyat.
By 2018, the Honda engines will be developed and ready for a new succesful campaign.
And Mclaren will regret they bought themselves out of the Honda contract, and forked out a lot of money for a French engine, by 2018 not even on par with Honda.
PS: Renault will still only deliver to 3 teams from -18


@ Soren… What makes you so sure that Honda will do in the next 12 months that they haven’t been able to do in the past three years? Anything to support that theory or is it just a matter of taking a guess, like a lot of others are doing.? To be competitive they not only have to be able to finish races but they then must successfully take on the next three suppliers each of which are levels up on each other. I’m not aware of any data that would support that proposition for the simple reason that if was true then Mclaren would never have walked.


“…..By 2018, the Honda engines will be developed and ready for a new succesful campaign.
And Mclaren will regret they bought themselves out of the Honda contract…..”

Stranger things have happened….

It’s a possibility McLaren might face, but I suppose that they are unwilling to risk yet another horrible season next year so see switching engines as the lesser of two evils.


“By 2018, the Honda engines will be developed and ready for a new succesful campaign.
And Mclaren will regret they bought themselves out of the Honda contract, and forked out a lot of money for a French engine, by 2018 not even on par with Honda.”

Stranger things have happened…….

It’s a possibility McLaren might have to face, but I suppose they are just not prepared to stick with Honda and risk facing another horrible year so they may see switching as the lesser of two evils.


Good move for Sainz, but as far as McLaren go they’ll be no better off than they were in 2013 or 2014 and I expect similar results. Neither Renault or Red Bull will be easy to beat and I get the feeling they’re relying on Alonso to make the difference.

Williams should also improve with Paddy Lowe’s first car allied with Mercedes power, best the MCL33R can hope for is plenty of 6th/7th/8th places.


My fingers are crossed for Gasly. Surely Honda have been poor enough this year that they can’t demand their own driver over him (license points aside).


I just don’t get it!

Situation leading up to this (or so we’ve been lead to believe) is that McLaren wanted out of Honda deal, and neither Renault nor Merc were will to supply an additional team.

So then we hear that McLaren are discussing an engine swap with Toro Rosso. Publicly, Renault say they’d prefer not to change customer, but it’s hard to see why (a bit of ‘bedding in’ aside) cos presumably the cost of supplying team A is no different to supplying team B.

Then there’s the Red Bull angle: Sainz is part of their program, and is highly rated. Why would RB want to see him move to a competitor team who’ll be using the same engines as they are. And, more to the point, why would RB wish to have McLaren powered by the same PU, setting themselves up for a direct competition with – and potentially losing their 3rd place to – McLaren in 2018?

Much as I respect Honda (I drive one), their F1 PU program has been an unmitigated failure – there is no reason to believe they will ever catch up whilst these complex hybrid PUs and restrictive testing / engine rules are part of F1; McLaren have clearly given up on the hope of a breakthrough from Honda. So why on earth would Toro Rosso wish to give up the reasonably-good-and-improving Renault PU in exchange for Honda’s fragile-and-under-powered effort?

I’m pretty confused about it all. It seems McLaren are the ones wanting the deal, yet TR (and to a lesser extend RB) are the ones taking all of the risks and making the sacrifices to get the deal to happen.

Can you further unravel this one for us, James?


I suspect Honda will leave Matshushita in F2 for 2018. He’ll benefit from the experience and (surely) earn his superlicence points. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso are spared the non-optimal situation of moving from two known quantities (insofar as the mercurial Kvyat can be considered ‘known’) to two unknowns. They could benchmark Gasly against Kvyat in 2018, then have a better idea of where Matsushita stands in 2019.

I think Sainz needed to move on. It was hard to see where he could go from STR, with the top team looking full for the foreseeable. He’s quietly impressed from the outset in F1, but was put in the shade somewhat by the very noisy Max Verstappen. The one thing I do think about Sainz is that he seems a touch reluctant to push outside of his comfort zone, and he’ll need to start pushing the envelope if he wants to win races. Renault have got themselves a cracking lineup for next year, though. I think these two will push each other hard, but without the kind of fireworks we’ve seen at Force India this year. It’ll be a race to see who gets his first podium!

I have to spare a thought for Jolyon Palmer, though, who is a much better driver than he’s been able to show in F1. He’s had absolutely wretched luck, but you also have to say he’s not delivered when he’s had the chance. Jolyon’s big problem is that, throughout his career, he’s taken a year or two longer than his peers to adapt to each new formula. He was just getting to grips with F1 when the new cars threw him a googly. It’s hard to see where he goes from here, but I suspect we’re watching his final races as an F1 driver.


never mind about Sainz whats going to happen to Jolyon? will this leave the UK with just one driver in F1


Its been a rough time for Palmer in F1. Can almost feel sorry for him, as the car etc was not up to it either. But Palmer came into F1 as GP2 champ, albeit spent 4 years there to achieve that feat. And were beaten by his teammates in the other seasons. Actually his whole racing career has been ‘unconventional’ in the poorest sense. He started with just one in karting before moving to T-Cars. Then straight into his father’s Formula Palmer Audi series. From there to Formula 2, where he was beaten to the title in second year by rookie Dean Stoneman. Sorry to say, but Palmer’s rookie results in junior series were poor! 5th in T-Cars, 10th in Formula Palmer Audi, 21st in F2, and 28th in GP2… How did he even get into F1???
And we all know that Palmer was not Renault’s first choice for 2017, so expect this to be the last we will see of him in F1.


Assuming this is the end for McHonda its a shame it has to be so awkward and complex. I get the frustration with the current situation but I do have a nagging feeling that Honda will come good.

As for Sainz, good luck and I’m sure Hulk will be more nervous than he ever was with PAL as team mate. I think it s a good move and can honestly see PAL going before the end of the season.


May be Honda leaving Alonso might be a reason, as you can see Ferrari resurgence just after FA leaves. Poor Alonso wherever he goes trouble follows.


I’m glad to see Sainz having the opportunity to drive alongside Hulk more than anything in this news break. However, my understanding is that the RB still has full control over his short term future as a partner of Renault. This deal seems to be a mastery by RB due to Ric or Ves seem to leaving within the next couple of years. The. They can just put Sainz in one the cars. Again it will all depend on how he goes alongside Hulk.


If these proposals come to fruition then it will be a good result for many reasons. Gaining a Renault engine will at least give Mclaren one step up in engines and the possibility of gaining a better result in ‘!8. It will also keep Alonso in the game which is also important for the show. If, and it’s a big if, Honda manage to build a better mousetrap/engine then so be it. Mclaren simply cannot afford another year in the wilderness. It also frees Sainz to try and make his mark in a different environment. I have been impressed with Sainz as i see a real racer there that should be a contender in the years ahead. As for the retention of Kvyat…i am not so sure. He is what i call a mercurial driver. He can be fast and he can be erratic, he can be up and he can be down, it’s hard to pick, but does he have any linger term potential? Maybe? Palmer just never seemed to be F1 material. I definitely think that he was out of his depth. He’s had an appalling run of luck but that, in analysis, would’ve been accounted for by the team. If they do let him go then he can at least say i gave it my best shot and that wasn’t just enough. Tough business.


@kenneth I wonder if Mclaren have some sort of reunion clause. As in, if Honda engine becomes reliable next year, that in 2019 Mclaren can reunite with Honda. Otherwise it means Mclaren really believe one or two things, firstly that Honda will never develop a race winning engine before 2021, or secondly that Mclaren have given up on winning any championships until 2021. If the second was the case, that means Alonso would not sign a long term contract there and only a one year one to come into play next year.


@ Cheesy…yes, maybe there is something like that in the fine print. The problem is that I very much doubt if we’ll be made privy to the facts. What ever eventuates it will be better than the status quo. At least we’ll get to see Sainz emerging from the cocoon and spreading his wings. That should be good. The other thing i’m looking forward to is seeing if Alonso can really take it another notch. He’s far too good to be languishing on a deckchair in the sun whilst the racing moves on. With Sainz gone [ ? ] i expect TR will hold onto Kvyat for at least another year. Watching him fend off Gasly will also be interesting. So lots off things to watch out for but they are classified in the ‘not too vital bag’. What i really want to see is some changes at the top. Next year should see some movement…..


Of course for Sainz this is an optimal outcome. He will be very, very pleased. TR will always be a midfield player, but Renault can easily become a topteam. He now must beat Hulkenberg, a tough but not at this point of time an impossible task.
Red Bull now will get the inside data of two engines. That surely must be worth a great deal, in this case the price is Sainz. But honestly they had some kind of luxury problem with 3 very good drivers at the moment. Besides nobody at RB will be looking forward to a Verstappen/Sainz partnership.
So it looks like Sainz and RB are the clear winners of the McLaren/Honda problem

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