Carlos Sainz has yet to step up as a Formula One winner but Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix is a chance for the Ferrari driver to make a dream come true, in front of a capacity home crowd, and end a 146-race wait.
He has a winning car, with teammate Charles Leclerc taking two of five races this season and leading the championship, and plenty of hope.
“To do it at my home Grand Prix would be the best ever,” Sainz told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya yesterday.
“I keep thinking about it, keep dreaming about it. When I was 10 years old I dreamed about being a Formula One driver, and it happened. Then I dreamed about being a Ferrari driver and it happened.
“It’s what motivates me, it’s what makes me train at 7am and push like crazy. I’m thinking about it, but not obsessed,” added the 27-year-old, who has been on the podium three times this year including second in the Bahrain opener.
The last time Ferrari won in Spain, where overtaking can be a challenge, was with a Spanish driver – twice world champion Fernando Alonso in 2013.
Alonso, now with Renault-owned Alpine, is the only Spanish F1 driver to have won at home and he too will have plenty of support as the fans return in numbers after two pandemic-hit years.
Leclerc is 51 points ahead of Sainz but only 19 clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, a situation that leaves open the question of team orders being imposed although the season is still young.
Leclerc and Verstappen have won every race, with the tally 3-2 in the Dutch driver’s favour, and the two will likely be going wheel to wheel again.
The race marks the real start of the European season, despite the one at Italy’s Imola circuit last month, and is the point at which teams pump up development.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto has spoken of “important” upgrades to close a performance gap to Red Bull.
Verstappen is chasing a third successive win, after Imola and Miami, for only the second time in his career and at the circuit where, at 18, he became Formula One’s youngest winner in 2016.
“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going from the last few races with a clean start from Friday onwards,” said the Red Bull driver.
Champions Mercedes are also hopeful of progress after a tough start.
“A huge amount of hard work has been going on in the factories to unpick the data from Miami and turn it into improvements for Barcelona,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“Having run there in winter testing, albeit with a car that has evolved a lot since then, it will be a good place to correlate the information we have on the current car and we’re hopeful that we’ll make another step forward.”
Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has won six times in Barcelona, including the last five, but his hopes of celebrating another victory look slim.
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