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Marko: 'Unlucky' Sainz has disenchanted Leclerc

Carlos Sainz had the misfortune of going up against Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso early in his F1 career, but is now making an impact at Ferrari, reckons Helmut Marko.

Helmut Marko has singled out Ferrari's Carlos Sainz for praise after a strong 2021 season, saying the Spaniard was unlucky to go up against Max Verstappen during a critical time of his burgeoning career. Sainz was formerly part of the Red Bull driver programme, reaching Formula 1 at almost exactly the same time as the rapidly rising Verstappen. Both were given their first full-time F1 seats at Toro Rosso, Red Bull's junior team, for the 2015 season. It proved to be a somewhat one-sided battle in terms of points, as Verstappen rounded out the year with 51 to Sainz's 18. Regardless of circumstances at individual races that added to Verstappen's advantage over Sainz, Marko feels the Spaniard was unfortunate due to the timing of who he was partnered with in his debut season. "Sainz was unlucky to run into Verstappen at the decisive moment," Marko admitted to AutoRevue. " We already saw at the first test in Silverstone that he's blazingly fast right off the bat. He was almost on the same level as Verstappen – almost." With the team seeking a replacement for Daniil Kvyat early in 2016, as the Russian driver struggled at the senior outfit, Red Bull weighed up Sainz and Verstappen for the seat. "But when we had the choice between Verstappen and Sainz, it was clear," Marko explained.

Marko believes Sainz has "disenchanted" Leclerc

Being overlooked as Verstappen got fast-tracked into Red Bull, Marko admits there was evident disappointment from the Sainz camp. "They were both disappointed, but his father [Carlos Sainz Snr] the most," the Red Bull advisor explained. With Sainz given an avenue to leave by going to Renault in the closing stages of the 2017 season, he signed for the Enstone-based team on a full-time basis for 2018. His career has since flourished, moving to McLaren for a successful two-season spell in 2019 before joining Ferrari in 2021. In his first year with the Scuderia, Sainz ended up a constant close match for long-term signing Charles Leclerc, eventually beating his highly-rated teammate in the Drivers' Championship. Heading into his second season, Marko praised his former charge for having the measure of the Monegasque driver. "Sainz is certainly one of the top drivers, that's what he has proved," he went on to comment. "In my eyes, he has disenchanted Leclerc. In terms of speed, Sainz was there, but Leclerc had a lot of accidents. "At McLaren, we saw that [Lando] Norris is the youngster who has established himself best. And Sainz absolutely kept up with him."

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