‘A Ferrari driver signed by Red Bull’ – Carlos Sainz reveals label he ‘may never get rid of’

Oliver Harden
Carlos Sainz looks down as he walks around the TV pen in Melbourne

Carlos Sainz has claimed three F1 victories since replacing Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari in 2021

Carlos Sainz fears he may never escape the accusation that he is only in F1 because of his famous father, despite being signed by the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari over the course of his career.

Sainz has established himself as one of the leading names in F1 since arriving on the grid with the RB (then Toro Rosso) team in 2015 as a product of Red Bull’s illustrious junior academy.

Carlos Sainz fears Ferrari, Red Bull F1 links won’t stop unfair tag

Additional reporting by Pablo Hidalgo

Having been overlooked for a promotion to Red Bull’s senior team in favour of Max Verstappen in 2016, Sainz took the brave step to part ways with the energy drinks brand, racing for Renault and McLaren before being chosen as four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel’s replacement at Ferrari for 2021.

Despite claiming a race victory in three of his four seasons with Ferrari, Sainz was informed ahead of the F1 2024 campaign that his contract will not be extended beyond this year as the Scuderia confirmed the signing of seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes.

Sainz remains without a confirmed seat for the F1 2025 season, with the 29-year-old heavily linked with Audi/Sauber and Williams over recent months.

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The three-time grand prix winner is the son of Carlos Sainz Sr, the legendary rally driver who won two World Rally Championship titles and claimed his fourth victory in the historic Dakar Rally event, aged 61, in January this year.

Appearing on the Nude Project podcast, Sainz Jr explains that having a famous father has come with both positives and negatives, with his fellow competitors targeting him during his junior career before Sainz Sr told him to “either bite or get bitten” in a frank discussion.

And he fears that he will never fully shake the perception that he is only in F1 because of his background, despite carving out opportunities in F1 with manufacturers of the stature of Ferrari and Red Bull.

He said: “There is a piece of advice that my father gave me, which changed my life a bit because I have always been a bit of an innocent kid.

“When I was a kid I was a bit naive. I thought that I was everybody’s friend, that everybody liked me. And the motor racing world is a very tough world, very competitive.

“I arrived at the kart races when I was 12-13 years old, I put on my helmet and on the track everyone was going to give me hell: I don’t know if it was because I was Carlos Sainz’s son, but they wanted to beat me.

“In a way, I understand it because at that age you try to stand out and I imagine that their parents explained to them that I was Carlos Sainz’s son and if they beat me it meant that you were very good or that you could stand out.

“Then in every race they would hit me from behind, they would push me off the track.

“And one day, my father sat down and told me: ‘Carlos, life is a bitch and in this sport you either bite or you get bitten. And right now they’re biting you. They’re making life difficult for you. I know you’re a good kid, you like being friends with everyone, playing football in the breaks with the others. But here, you either bite or you get bitten. When you put on that helmet, make sure you’re the one who bites.’

“From there, I said: ‘You’re going to sh*t yourself.’

“It took me a while to change the chip from being the good guy to saying: ‘Well, if I have to push you off the track, I’m going to do it.’

“I had a bit of a complex because people looked at me more for being Carlos Sainz’s son and I was worried they’d say I was a dirty driver.

“You have a lot of little complexes because they look at you more and you are always a bit more careful. But I said ‘f*ck it’ and I started to deliver.

“To be extremely honest, I think on a practical level ‘being the son of’ is an advantage.

“I have a father who luckily has done well financially, he had money to pay for my karting career, he has contacts to get some sponsorship when you’re young, some help to cover the budget. He has the experience to give you all that advice. In practice it’s a great thing.

“Now on a theoretical or more personal level, to have it in your head that you’re Carlos Sainz’s son and to have that extra pressure once you’re in the car and it’s you against the world, it’s not so easy.

“I’m proud to be ‘son of’, but don’t underestimate the things that come with having that label and that continuous comparison.

“‘That guy is only there because of his surname’ – it’s a phrase I keep hearing even though I’m a Ferrari driver and have been signed by Red Bull.

“It’s a label I may never get rid of, but that phrase motivated me at the time and thanks to them I also won my races in F1 and I wanted to show everyone that I’m not here because I’m ‘the son of.’

“Now I laugh and I don’t care anymore.”

Sainz’s comments come amid mounting speculation over his destination for F1 2025, with Audi and Williams now believed to be in a straight fight for his signature.

PlanetF1.com revealed last month that Mercedes are no longer considering Sainz to replace Hamilton, with the team prepared to promote 17-year-old sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli for next season if top target Verstappen is deemed unattainable.

Meanwhile, Sainz’s hopes of a Red Bull seat ended after the team announced a new two-year contract for Sergio Perez ahead of the recent Canadian Grand Prix.

It has been speculated that an announcement on Sainz’s F1 2025 plans could come at his home race, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, this weekend.

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