A love for motor sports has turned Carlos Sainz (Madrid, 26) into a successful driver, but it didn’t come easy. His career was defined by change, having made his way to Formula 1 through different categories, and having joined Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow in 2020 after driving for three other F1 teams, in a sport that, much like himself, is always moving forward.
Up next, Sainz walks us through how he handles change in a high-pressure environment and how important flexibility and adaptability have become in the modern age or racing.
How are you feeling now that you have several races under your belt as an official Scuderia Ferrari driver?
I’m feeling good. Obviously, the more races I do the better I feel. I think there’s still potential to get better as a team just by working more time together, but in general I am very proud of the progress we’ve made so far and of how quickly I have managed to adapt.
Have these last few races helped you gain confidence?
Yes. Like I said before I still feel, that there is potential for improvement. Confidence is very high, and I think as a team in the last few races we are starting to put the whole weekend together, and as the season progresses this will be easier and easier.
You have changed teams before, both within F1 as well as other racing categories, how was this latest change different to the rest?
Obviously, Ferrari is the biggest team I have ever worked with, and a much bigger organization than what I was used to, so it makes the challenge more difficult in general. But thanks to me moving to Italy, thanks to the good welcome everyone has given me, it has been very straightforward, and the adaptation and atmosphere have been very good.
What did you do to prepare yourself before joining Scuderia Ferrari?
Honestly, nothing special because I believed that when I arrived in Ferrari I was prepared for the challenge. Had I thought I wasn’t, I would not have taken the decision to join. I feel I was ready and prepared, having gained experience in all categories prior to Formula 1 and then having a good career in it has prepared me well for this challenge.
What were the most challenging aspects of changing teams? And what about the easiest change to get used to?
The easiest was definitely getting used to Italian culture and people. Spaniards and Italians are similar in a way. I love the food, the people, and I find it very easy to get along with everyone around me. The most challenging aspect was probably adapting my driving style to the car and change my way of doing certain corners and some other bits. Also probably getting to know the whole team and the way the team operates.
Have you developed any rituals or routines when faced with such a large challenge to your life and career?
I know that what I was doing before joining Ferrari worked well, so my goal was to simply bring my work ethic and methodology into Ferrari, and so far, it is working well.
Formula 1 isn’t a stranger to change. The sport itself changes every season with new tracks, changes to existing tracks, new regulations and different setups. How does it feel to be part of a sport which is in constant evolution?
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of sport, of motor sport in general, and the most beautiful part of it is that every season there are new challenges, every year that goes by the car changes, the engineers come up with clever ideas, and drivers come up with different ways to drive and to explore the car potential.
So, do you enjoy the fact that the sport is changing so much every season, or in some cases even every race?
I like it, I enjoy it. I think it is part of Formula 1, the constant evolution and constant change. And it is the way it should be, because everyone in Formula 1 wants to get better and better every race that goes by and make our amazing sport not only quicker and faster, but also more sustainable and more equalitarian. In that sense, Formula 1 is developing well.
How important is flexibility and adapting quickly to changes in Formula 1?
It is part of the basics of Formula 1. You are in constant evolution, so you need to always be open-minded to change some things and try to improve. This is why Formula 1 has been evolving for so many years and it’s always been a pioneer in so many aspects and so many things, and it is why Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport.
Do you believe that change in Formula 1 is always good?
It depends. If it’s for the better, then yes. There have always been changes for the better and changes for the worse. What’s important is to identify when there have been changes for the worse and be open-minded enough to realize it and to change the approach and go back. There shouldn’t be any blame culture of pointing fingers. As a group it is always important to realize when a wrong direction has been taken and how to come back from it.
Are there any changes in the sport that you struggle to adapt to? If so, what did you do to help you overcome these difficulties?
The greatest challenge we had to face was Covid and having to adapt to all the new procedures, the new travelling restrictions, the use of masks etc. This was the biggest change I suffered in Formula 1 and in life in general. What is interesting to see is how everyone got used to it super quickly, and how resilient the human species is to suddenly adapt to a completely different situation. I struggled with it, but I also got used to it. This said, I cannot wait to go back to normal life.
Change isn’t only limited to Formula 1. Do you believe that dealing with change so often in racing helped you also tackle changes in your normal life?
I guess so. Since in Formula 1 you’re always exposed to changes and development, you are probably also keener to see all the challenges the world is facing. It makes you maybe a more resilient and open to change outside Formula 1.
Is there something that despite all the changes, remained a constant in your life? If so, how important is it to retain some sort of constant during a period of change?
I have always had some pillars in my life: keeping my family as close to me as possible, first of all; doing everything I can in order to stay healthy and keep the people I love as healthy as possible. Once you have those two things covered everything else is less important. I obviously have my Formula 1 career, where I’m trying to be as successful as I can, but my priorities are quite clear.
Hearing him talk, there is no doubt that Sainz’s approach to change is a positive one, and special brand of discipline has helped him evolve in his career and opened his mind to become more resilient and more perceptive, both in and out of the track.