Carlos Sainz Shows Why He’s Formula 1’s Underrated And Underappreciated Talent

F1 Australian Grand Prix 2024
F1 Australian Grand Prix 2024

Carlos Sainz has shown us why he’s Formula 1’s ultimate underrated and underappreciated talent yet again at the Australian Grand Prix earlier today.

The Spaniard has gone from the operating table in Saudi Arabia to the top step of the F1 podium in Australia in just over two weeks’ time. Sainz was replaced by Ollie Bearman in Jeddah and was unable to walk normally after successful appendix surgery just over a fortnight ago.

How has Sainz managed yet another performance that shows how underrated and underappreciated he is in F1, though? And where will Carlos end up driving in 2025 after it was announced that he will be replaced by Sir Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari next year?

Carlos Sainz Shows Why He’s Formula 1’s Underrated And Underappreciated Talent

Max Verstappen has been on a rampage in Formula 1 like we’ve never seen before. The Flying Dutchman has won three drivers’ world championships in a row and was the very heavy favourite to make it four consecutive titles before the Australian Grand Prix got underway.

Verstappen was aiming to make it ten Formula 1 wins in a row in Melbourne and three victories in a row to start the 2024 season. He was in crushing form as no other drivers could even challenge Max in the opening two rounds of the season.

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The Red Bull RB20 is a monster of a car, so much so that Sergio Perez had finished a comfortable second in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to make it back-to-back 1-2’s for the Milton Keynes outfit. So, when the Red Bull driver claimed his third pole in a row yesterday, F1 fans were getting that sinking feeling again.

Who could stop Max and Red Bull? Well, none other than the smooth operator himself… The man that I believe is the most underappreciated talent in F1 right now. Sainz was also the driver that stopped Max’s eleven-race winning streak last season, too, something the Spaniard is making a habit of and cannot be put down to coincidence.

The Smooth Operator

There was doubt over whether Sainz would be passed as fit to race by the FIA, but he managed this on Thursday of this week. Just like Alex Albon last season, Sainz would go from the operating theatre to the F1 track in a couple of weeks.

It cannot be understated how hard that is to do, as piloting a Formula 1 car at full speed is an assault on the drivers’ bodies and senses like most people cannot even comprehend. The G-forces pulled in the high-speed corners alone are enough to beat most regular people into submission, let alone those recovering from surgery.

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Sainz has said that he’s not feeling 100% this weekend, making his second place in qualifying all the more impressive. “Chilli”, as he’s affectionately known by his friends, got a solid start to hold his P2, which quickly became the lead when Verstappen retired with a mechanical failure.

With Sainz’s teammate, Charles Leclerc behind in P2 to back him up, Ferrari were in a commanding position. Unlike Silverstone a couple of years ago too, the Scuderia didn’t resort to unnecessary team tactics, either and let their drivers race freely.

After being under the knife himself earlier this month, Sainz completed a smooth operation of his own to take the chequered flag in Melbourne.

Is a title challenge on the cards?

If he hadn’t missed the race in Saudi Arabia, Sainz would be up at the top with Verstappen and perhaps even ahead. As it is, Sainz is in fourth place, eleven points back from Verstappen.

Leclerc is currently Max’s closest challenger, four points off the defending champion and had he won today, would’ve gone to the top spot. Challenging Verstappen over the whole season, though, for any other driver, is an extremely tall order and would require more mechanical unreliability from Red Bull.

Carlos Sainz

The question has to be legitimately asked, though, has Ferrari gotten rid of the wrong driver? Sainz is currently not under contract anywhere for 2025 and despite his best efforts, there hasn’t been a speedy resolution to this yet.

Some might call the dropping of Sainz for next year unfair and that’s a sentiment I would go along with too. He’s been incredibly consistent for Ferrari and up with Leclerc in the championship throughout the last four years.

Where does Sainz go for 2025?

When Hamilton was announced as a Ferrari driver for next year, I initially said that Sainz will probably end up at Red Bull alongside Max. While I still feel that is a likely option, I actually believe that a different team is his most likely destination.

With all the chaos going on behind the scenes at Red Bull and Sergio Perez having a better start to the season than how he finished 2023, I think that Mercedes will be where Sainz ends up. Given the option of either Albon or Sainz to partner George Russell, I think that Toto Wolff will choose the Spaniard.

Indeed, that’s something the Austrian has refused to rule out and it’s little wonder why, especially after today’s performance.

Wherever Sainz ends up, though, he will succeed. He’s a supremely talented and above all else, consistent driver who will be a big miss for Ferrari. He may not have the flair and excitement of Leclerc or the titles and wins of Hamilton or Verstappen, but Sainz is without a doubt one of the top drivers in F1.

He proved that at Toro Rosso, where he matched Verstappen in the same car, similar to how he has done so at Ferrari. He also blew Lando Norris out of the water at McLaren, with the Brit cementing himself as one of the top men in F1 in subsequent seasons.

So, the real race off the track right now is to sign Sainz, as Red Bull, Mercedes and probably even Aston Martin will be looking for the smooth operator’s signature in 2025.

5 Things We Learned From The 2024 Australian Grand Prix

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