Martin Brundle warns axed driver against ‘desperate mistakes’ ahead of ‘best season yet’

Michelle Foster
Martin Brundle on a grid walk at the Miami Grand Prix.

Martin Brundle on presenting duties for Sky Sports F1

Carlos Sainz could be in for his “best season yet” in Formula 1, that’s if he avoids the “desperate” and “terrible mistakes” and can cope with being “micro-analysed lap by lap”.

This year will be Sainz’s fourth and final campaign as a Ferrari driver having been dropped in favour of signing seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

It’s an unusual situation for a driver to be in, knowing even before the first race of the season that his days with the team are numbered.

Martin Brundle on the perils that await Carlos Sainz this season

One former driver who understands what Sainz will go through this year is nine-time F1 podium finisher Martin Brundle.

The Briton was dropped by Benetton at the end 1992, revealing it was “clear” that Riccardo Patrese was going to be in his seat come the 1993 season.

Sainz, he says, will not only have to deal with being “micro-analysed lap by lap” as teams and pundits debate his future but at some point he’ll also be shut out by Ferrari and that can play with a driver’s mind.

“In a way you’re a free spirit because you can drive for yourself if you know you’re leaving,” he told Sky Sports.

“You know that if other teams are looking at you for a drive that if you have a series of shunts or you get heavily outqualified by your team-mate – or indeed visa-versa – people start over-analysing that sometimes.

“It’s almost like whatever you’ve done in your career up until that point gets erased and you are almost micro-analysed lap by lap, race by race, qualifying by qualifying.

“It’s very clear to note when you stop getting invited to meetings. There is never a clear-cut point when anyone rings you up and goes ‘ok, this is the turning point, you are persona non grata from here on in’, you just start to notice things like you’re not party to details of new parts or invited to certain meetings, and also these days that you’re not in the simulator.

“It is uncomfortable and I think you start seeing ‘ghosts’ and imagining all the focus is on the other side of the garage, or people see you and they look down because they are embarrassed.

“I had this at Benetton in 1992 when it was clear that Riccardo Patrese had got my drive for 1993. Maybe you start seeing things that don’t exist, but you kind of sense that you’re out of the loop and no longer part of the team, whether it was your choice or somebody else’s choice.

“In the end racing drivers are human beings with the same emotions that everybody else has. If you got fired at work but had to hang around for a year and do the best job you could, I think anybody can actually place themselves in that situation. But then multiply that by having tens or hundreds of millions of people watching you do that job that you’ve been fired from.”

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All, though, is not lost for the Spaniard.

According to Brundle, as a world-class driver and proven race winner, Sainz will need to think of himself this season as he auditions for a 2025 race seat.

And that could yet lead to his “best season” ever in Formula 1.

“It’s highly unusual the situation Carlos finds himself in,” said Brundle. “He’s a world-class driver, who won a race last year, and is being eased out of a world-class car. In the end you have to start thinking about yourself and you race for yourself.

“So it’s going to be frustrating for Carlos, he’s been a Ferrari driver, but I think this could be his best season yet.

“But that’s as long as you don’t get desperate and want to show the world what you think is a terrible mistake they’ve made. That’s when you start trying too hard, like in any sport, or things happen and you get a bit tight in the car.

“But it’s the nature of our business. It’s a big World Championship but it’s a small number of key players in 300-400 metres of paddock. People know how to handle it to an extent.”

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