We caught up with 24-year-old Carlos Sainz after he took to the MCL33 for the first time this week at the Pirelli tyre test.
Get the inside scoop on his McLaren onboarding, and thoughts going into the winter break.
How was your first day as a McLaren driver?
It’s been an intense three days! After the race finished in Abu Dhabi, we’ve been full steam ahead on 2019. I’ve been learning names of my new colleagues, how the car works, how the system works, also building relationships with the engineers - and that has gone all to plan. Thanks to the 150 laps I did at the test, I can go into winter with a lot of information to analyse.
What were your initial thoughts when you first got behind the wheel of the MCL33?
Ah! Honestly, driving for McLaren is kind of a dream come true. Everything felt at home, since the moment I jumped in, everything felt really, really good. I can’t complain. It has been a great few days and thanks to the mechanics and engineers who made me feel like I’m at home.
What was it like to meet the McLaren crew?
Great. I’ve met a lot of people with English names… many Wills, James, Toms! Relationship building is a process that I aim to continue improving throughout the winter, and when I go to Barcelona pre-season testing next year it will be even better.
You’ve now spent some time with your new team mate Lando. How are you getting on?
Yeah, good. Seeing him drive on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi test helped me to see how the team was operating. And then it was my turn, and we have already shared a couple of comments about the car, about the balance, about what we need for next year. It’s going smoothly so far.
You’re following in the footsteps of Hunt, Senna, Prost, Häkkinen, Alonso… what does this mean to you?
Incredible, no? That’s why when I left the garage for the first time in the MCL33, it was a good moment. I realised I was driving a McLaren and for this team, and that is something special.
What are your plans for the winter break?
It’s going to be a few weeks away still. I’m going to the McLaren Technology Centre to prepare for 2019. l’ll be going home in mid-December to get a bit of a break over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Until then, still a bit of hard work to do, but we’ll have some fun at the factory too. We’re planning on doing some go-karting races with the mechanics and stuff to get to know each other. It’ll be a fun few days - but still working and pushing hard.
Are you doing anything different in the off-season to prepare for 2019?
No. As you get more experienced, you know where your weaknesses are, where your strong points are, and you keep improving and keep getting better at preparing yourself. So no, I’m planning on doing pretty much the same as always.