Carlos Sainz was always destined to follow his famous father into motor sport – and perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise that he opted for circuit racing rather than rallying.
Carlos Sr is a legend in his native Spain, winning the World Rally Championship in 1990 and 1992, and taking a total of 26 WRC event victories. However, it’s easy to overlook the fact that he could have followed the circuit route, having competed in Formula Ford in his youth, and even contested the famous Festival at Brands Hatch. Later in his career he tested a Porsche 962 WEC car.
From an early age Carlos Jr targeted circuit racing, inspired in part by the success of Fernando Alonso, who he met when he was still a child. Early success in karting saw him move into cars in 2010, when he just 15.
He raced initially in Formula BMW, and he finished fourth in that year’s European championship.
Although his famous name got him noticed, he still had to perform to retain his backing, and continue to earn results. In 2011 he moved up to Formula Renault, winning the Northern Europe Cup and placing second in the Eurocup, while he also dipped a toe in the water in F3.
In 2012 he had a busy programme of European and British F3, scoring five race wins in the latter. The following year he graduated to GP3. It was to be a frustrating season for Carlos, who finished only 10th in a season dominated by Arden team mate Daniil Kvyat. However, facing adversity can be an important part of the learning process.
He also contested some Renault 3.5 races that year, and showed some promise. Indeed the more powerful cars seemed to suit him, and leaving GP3 behind in 2014 he won the Renault 3.5 title in style, beating a field that included the likes of Pierre Gasly, Roberto Merhi and Sergey Sirotkin.
He’d done more than enough to secure his graduation to F1 with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2015 – where his team mate was to be a fellow rookie called Max Verstappen. Articulate, charming and fluent in several languages, Carlos quickly became a popular figure in the paddock, as if he was born to be a Grand Prix driver.
It was to be a tense but fascinating battle between the two newcomers, and Carlos impressed when he scored points in his first two F1 starts.
In 2016, he focussed on beating his new team mate, former GP3 rival Kvyat. Carlos earned three sixth places, and was a respectable 12th in the World Championship.
Carlos remained with Toro Rosso for a third year in 2017, continuing to log good points, including an impressive fourth place in Singapore. However, before the end of the season as part of a bigger deal he was transferred to the works Renault team, while still remaining under the Red Bull umbrella.
He earned seventh in Austin in his first outing for his new team, and eventually finished ninth in that year’s title race. For 2018 he battled throughout the season alongside team mate Nico Hulkenberg, and finished in the points 13 times. Working with a manufacturer team helped to further his education.
In August 2018, it was announced that Carlos would be joining McLaren in 2019, taking the seat vacated by his close friend and countryman Alonso.
At 26, and with five full seasons behind him, he’s now poised to take on his final year with McLaren in 2020.