Carlos Sainz believes Red Bull took “the safe option” by picking Pierre Gasly ahead of him to replace Daniel Ricciardo next season.
Ricciardo surprised Red Bull by opting to move to Renault in 2019, turning down a one-year contract extension with the team that brought him through its young driver program. In picking his replacement, Red Bull eventually opted against recreating the pairing of Sainz and Max Verstappen that had previously been seen at Toro Rosso, with Gasly getting the nod after less than one full year in Formula 1.
“I am convinced that in 2016 and 2017 that if there was a gap at Red Bull then l would have got it but Ricciardo and Verstappen were fixed,” Sainz told Sky Sports.
“Then l left for Renault, and had a very good year, but inevitably l lost a bit of touch and Red Bull didn’t have as much information, so they went for the safe option with Gasly, which l fully back because he is a great driver and deserves the Red Bull chance.”
Sainz will instead race for McLaren in 2019 and says the length of the contract he has been given will help him display his true potential, having spent his time trying to convince Red Bull he was worthy of promotion from Toro Rosso prior to joining Renault this year.
“A driver needs confidence, and if a team gives you two years it means they really trust you and believe in you,” he said. “This is my first time in F1 that I will have a two-year contract. It gives me stability and it gives me confidence.
“My first year at Toro Rosso in 2015 was a good year, but in 2016 l scored three times as many points in a car that was actually a bit worse than the 2015 car, and then in the third year, 2017, I did an even better year and it gave me the passport to go to Renault.
“Just by having a second year in the same team, in the same car, with the same engine, same mechanics, it allows you to find the little tricks of the car, the differences that mean you are able to extract the final two tenths. It allows the whole team to come together. That’s why stability is important. It really helps you perform.”