Carlos Sainz has revealed he did not get too excited when initially approached by Ferrari – as he thought they would be “talking to all the drivers”.
While the start of the F1 season was on hold in the spring of 2020, lockdown was livened up by news that Sebastian Vettel was being released by Ferrari at the end of his contract and replaced by Sainz in a move from McLaren.
The Spaniard has thus become Charles Leclerc’s team-mate as the Scuderia try to fight their way back up the order after a poor 2020 campaign – once it finally got going – in which they finished sixth of 10 in the constructors’ World Championship.
And although, publicly at least, it appeared the driver switch for 2021 had been completed in very short order, Sainz indicated it had been a longer process – giving him time to ponder just how serious Ferrari were, at first, about signing him up.
“The first time we got in contact, you can imagine, you go into it without trying to believe it too much,” Sainz told Motorsport.com.
“[You’re thinking] they must just be talking to all the drivers. So I tried to be very relaxed about it. I tried to keep my focus always on the present.
“But during the lockdown, there was nothing to do. There was not a lot to think about, so I started to get a bit more interested and a bit more keen.
“All of a sudden, everything started happening very quickly during that period of time.”
— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) January 15, 2021
After the initial hubbub of media interest, the 26-year-old was pleased that once the season finally began with the Austrian Grand Prix in early July, he was able to put the move to one side and focus on what was ultimately a fruitful campaign with McLaren.
“When you sign for Ferrari, you know what’s coming, all the media attention,” added Sainz, whose second-place finish in the Italian Grand Prix and helping McLaren to finish third in the constructors’ World Championship were his other highlights of 2020.
“It was in the middle of lockdown and I knew that going into Austria a lot of questions would be asked.
“It’s a period of time when you know you will get a lot of media attention, especially in Spain. I don’t think many people in Spain expected Carlos Sainz to be part of Ferrari maybe one or two years ago. So it got quite big at the time.
“But it very quickly went away. We managed, together with McLaren, to make sure there were not a lot of stories developing, just focusing on the present.
“We didn’t want the stories being generated and we wanted to focus on a very important year that we had. I think it worked really well.
“The relationship with McLaren has always been very open and very relaxed. So I never really got to feel a lot of pressure, a lot of weight on my shoulders.”