McLaren CEO Zak Brown believes Carlos Sainz “came into his own” during his two-year spell with the Woking-based team.
The Spaniard moved to McLaren ahead of the 2019 season and formed a completely new look line-up, alongside rookie Lando Norris.
Taking the place of two-time World Champion and close friend Fernando Alonso never looked like being an easy task, but Sainz went on to flourish in his fifth full season of Formula 1.
In his first campaign after being officially dropped by Red Bull, he claimed P6 in the Drivers’ Championship and again claimed the same position in 2020, with his highest points tally yet.
“Carlos has done an outstanding job I think. We would never have signed him if we didn’t think he was an excellent Grand Prix driver. I think it’s fair to say he exceeded our expectations,” said Brown in an interview with Formula1.com.
“I think he really came into his own in our environment. He’s done an outstanding job and he and Lando have helped lead the way these last couple of years.
“But as you know, in a racing team, your drivers are the superstars, they’ve been big contributors, so have everyone at McLaren to give them a good, reliable race car. Renault have been a good partner, so it’s all really come together and Carlos and Lando have made the most of the opportunity.”
The popular pairing, which earned McLaren their highest position in the constructors’ standings since 2012, is no more as Sainz heads off to Ferrari to replace Sebastian Vettel, with Daniel Ricciardo making the move to join Norris.
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) January 4, 2021
Ricciardo’s arrival wasn’t too much of a surprise, given Brown had tried to poach him for the 2019 seat which eventually went to Sainz.
Questions were raised when Ricciardo decided to end his time with Renault in favour of McLaren and the driver himself has previously said only “time will tell” whether or not it is the right decision.
However, Brown is clearly feeling positive about the move and he believes that there is no pairing on the grid more exciting than his own.
“Daniel is someone that we’re very excited to have join,” said Brown. “He’s obviously a proven race winner. He’s somebody we tried to get into our car a couple of years ago.
“Lando has continued to mature. He has had a great second season and I think the combination of our driver line-up is awesome and looking forward to both of them working together.
“I don’t think there is a combined driver line-up that will be more exciting next year on and off the track. I’m very confident we have got a very strong driver line-up.”