Carlos Sainz admits it is a “huge motivation” for him to be leading McLaren’s resurgence this season, despite a difficult start to the campaign.
The Spaniard joined the Woking-based outfit this year as a replacement for two-time world champion and countryman Fernando Alonso after his departure at the end of 2018.
McLaren has endured a challenging period since the team’s last victory at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, claiming just one podium finish in the last six years due to ailing performances and countless reliability woes.
Speaking in his first column for the Official Formula 1 website, Sainz is buoyed by the prospect of aiding McLaren’s recovery back to the front of the grid.
“It had been a dream to join McLaren, a team that has so much history in Formula 1,” Sainz admitted.
“The team has had a challenging few years but we share the same values of never giving up and fighting to be the best. It’s in our DNA and to lead this project is a huge motivation.
“We’ve had a difficult first three races of 2019, but we can take so much encouragement from our raw performance.
“We’re turning things around already this year, we’re right in the midfield fight and have shown consistently that we have a car that is capable of scoring points.”
Sainz’s McLaren career hasn’t got off to the easiest of starts, failing to score points from any of the opening three rounds after retirements in Australia and Bahrain and a first-lap collision in China.
Although the 24-year-old is frustrated to not have registered a strong result, the MCL34’s potential has Sainz optimistic the team can compete for regular points finishes in the coming events.
“Of the three [races] so far, our car was strongest in Bahrain,” he said. “I had a great lap in qualifying and managed seventh, less than a tenth behind a Red Bull and Haas.
“In the race, I got up to sixth and was catching Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. I got a good run into Turn 4 and was well ahead before the braking zone. Then you saw what happened, but I would have never backed off from it.
“The Shanghai race weekend didn’t quite work out as we hoped. We knew we could struggle because our car in long corners isn’t as strong as in braking and traction.
“Friday was encouraging but in qualifying, we missed out on Q3 by a few tenths. In the race, you all know what happened.
“I tried to avoid an accident but there was nothing I could do. Daniil Kvyat just lost his car, pushed me off and he then made contact with Lando [Norris].
“It hasn’t been a great first three races, and it’s definitely frustrating when you know you are comfortable with the car. But the pace of the car is strong and it’s just a matter of time before we start getting points.”