Carlos Sainz admits he was “puzzled” by McLaren when fighting against them for Renault in 2018.
The Spaniard would make the switch from Renault to the Woking outfit for 2019, and already that move looks to be paying off.
McLaren currently sit best-of-the-rest P4 in the Constructors’ Championship, having scored as many points at the start of 2019 as they managed in the last 13 races of 2018.
Sainz said that from the information he had, McLaren’s performances last season “puzzled” him.
“Sometimes last year when I was racing for Renault I was a bit puzzled by McLaren being half a second away in qualifying and suddenly in the race being always a pain for us,” he told Motorsport.com.
“This year, qualifying has improved and still we have strong race pace. So, I kind of expected the race pace to be good, and now I understand why last year the car was a bit better in the race than in qualifying.
“I’ve tested it, I know how it feels and I know more or less what’s going on. There’s a few interesting bits there that I’ve learned.”
Sainz was quietly confident that McLaren would start the season well and believes they can fight for points anywhere on the calendar.
“We know the fuel loads we ran, we know the engine modes we ran, and in testing I saw we were strong,” said Sainz. “I thought maybe we can have some fun in the first few races.
“So when I went to Australia, I already knew the car could potentially be in Q3, potentially in the points.
“So I set my targets before Australia because I knew more or less where we could be.
“Because of that, I think points finish we can target in pretty much every race, even in races like China where we didn’t qualify well.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to get points, it doesn’t mean we’re going to make Q3 every race. But that should be the target of McLaren at the moment.”