Max Verstappen may have outperformed Carlos Sainz by 48 points to 19 in their only full season together at Toro Rosso, and the Dutchman may have gone on to much bigger and better things than his Spanish counterpart, but Pedro de la Rosa believes the two are on the same level ahead of Sainz’s move to McLaren next year.
De la Rosa raced for Sainz’s future team once in 2005 and for eight races at the end of 2006, where he scored his one and only F1 podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
And now he backs his fellow Spaniard to succeed at McLaren, telling El Confidencial: “Next year they probably will not fight for a podium but they will be more competitive than this year.
“Honestly, I believe we have seen the worst of McLaren, but you have to be realistic as it is highly unlikely that from the back of the grid they will be podium contenders next year. This does not happen in Formula 1.”
Sainz was rumoured to be taking Daniel Ricciardo’s vacant seat at Red Bull, but he was rejected by the team who gave him his F1 chance with Toro Rosso, instead opting to sign current Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly.
With Ricciardo joining Nico Hulkenberg at Renault, it left Sainz with few options, and he chose to replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren, and de la Rosa believes that Sainz can fill the gap left by the two time world champion.
He added: “I see [Carlos] as a top driver and for me, it is very clear that he is at the same level as Verstappen and Hulkenberg and faster than many others which shows the level he is at.”
“I have no doubt he is World Champion material. The next Alonso? The comparisons are odious because Fernando is one of the best in history. In fifteen years we will be in a position to compare them, not now.”