Carlos Sainz Jr - Carlitos' way

Working his way to the top

Toro Rosso star and Spanish home hero Carlos Sainz Junior clearly has charisma and talent in spades – no question about that – but in the end, there is no substitute for hard work. And it’s equally obvious where the 22-year-old’s work ethic comes from.
Wherever you are in the world, the older generation likes to complain about the fecklessness of modern disaffected youth, but that syndrome hasn’t reached Madrid. Carlitos has a towering, entirely justified, respect for his famous father, who has sometimes shown him tough love but has always been there as his most committed supporter: a confidant, travelling companion, advisor and friend as much as a parent.
“First, Carlos had to show that he really wanted to do this and was prepared to work very hard for it,” explains Carlos Senior – a two-time world rally champion with Pirelli – reflecting on his son’s racing career. “Then, from the start, I said to him that if he was willing to do the work, then I was willing to help him. But first he had to work hard, or I would not help him.”

Education first

Carlitos’s schooling came first: when he was a 15-year-old racing in Formula BMW, his schoolbooks came with him all over Europe. Carlos Senior has instilled some old-fashioned values in his son that are missing from many people: industriousness, modesty, dedication and respect for others.
The result is an accomplished, sometimes reticent, but exceptionally polite young man – who also happens to be devastatingly fast in a racing car. Carlos Junior is lucky and he knows it; Carlos Senior’s own parents never supported his motorsport ambitions in the same way. In fact, they disapproved: they wanted him to be a lawyer instead.
Carlos Senior isn’t a particularly sentimental man.  But it’s clear how proud he is of his son, even though the only comments he tended to limit himself to in public were “he’s doing OK” and “he’s on the right road.”  Now that Junior is firmly established in Formula 1®, Sainz Senior is a bit more expansive about his son’s abilities. But only a bit. He doesn’t want Junior to get ahead of himself, after all.

Starting young

Many people billed Carlitos as an early starter when he came into Formula 1® (he was less than three years older than the 17-year-old Max Verstappen) but the truth is that he’s been around motorsport since he was five years old, starting with the Catalunya Rally, where his father achieved God-like status. 
“It’s funny: I was never really aware of that when I was younger,” says Carlitos. “For me, he was just ‘dad’. He would go away a lot for rallies, but I could never go much because I had school. And because of that, I didn’t really notice how famous he was.”
“Actually, Junior is probably more interested in my rally career now than he ever was before,” recounts his father. “When I was driving he was still very young; I don’t think he appreciated what it all meant. But now he asks me lots of things about what I remember from the past, and how things happened.”
They’ve not been in a rally car together very often, but Carlitos does recall co-driving for his father during one Dakar test. “I sat in and I was sort of amazed,” he recalls. “I thought – ‘my dad is really not a bad driver at all!’ I like rallying but I was never tempted to go down that road myself, because it was clear that the obvious comparisons would always be made, and I didn’t want that. So circuit racing was more interesting for me. But who knows, maybe in the future I could try to do a rally. For now, the focus is on Formula 1®.”
Carlos Junior is right of course. There’s no point in comparing father to son, as in the end they have as many differences as they have similarities. Junior shares the same painstaking attention to detail that characterised Senior, allied however with the sort of perpetual calmness that his father never always quite achieved. But even if Carlitos has inherited just a few of the qualities that define his father, one day he too will be world champion. Perhaps even twice.

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