Carlos Sainz jr hopes a timely show of dominance can put him back in the spotlight after a challenging couple of months. The Spaniard put up an impressive double-victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 category in France at the weekend, moving tantalisingly close to securing the title.
But last month Sainz, 20, was overlooked for a F1 debut with Toro Rosso for 2015, despite being the obvious cream of Red Bull's driver development programme. Sweeping into the Toro Rosso seat instead was the 16-year-old Max Verstappen, who is now being fast-tracked to F1 stardom by Red Bull and compared to the legendary Ayrton Senna by Dr Helmut Marko.
So, when speaking to Spain's El Confidencial, Sainz jr paused for a long time when he was asked if the Paul Ricard round of the 'World Series' was the most important race of his entire career. "Probably," he finally admitted.
And asked if his display of dominance was a little message to Red Bull in the wake of the controversial Verstappen decision, Sainz revealed: "Yes, I do have that feeling a bit. It was important to show all those who doubted you that you're still the same. That you are able to overcome a difficult situation."
"After Budapest," said Sainz, referring to the previous Formula Renault 3.5 round, "there were difficult days where it was hard to be positive. Emotionally, it (the Verstappen decision) was not easy to accept. It was not an easy summer."
In the wake of the Verstappen decision, Sainz and his well-known namesake and father sat down recently with Marko and all sides declared afterwards that the future is still on track. Asked if his dominance in Paul Ricard changes the situation yet again, Sainz jr insisted: "I don't know what it means for Red Bull, but for me, for my personal motivation, I feel good. If I win (the title) in Jerez I will be the first Red Bull driver to do it, the youngest in history, and it will be the record for wins in a season. If I do it I will have enormous confidence in myself for the future."
There might even be space on F1's 2015 grid for Sainz. He has had talks with Caterham, there is talk of three-car entries for 2015, and Sebastian Vettel could trigger a Red Bull-Toro Rosso reshuffle if the reigning world champion moves to Ferrari to replace Fernando Alonso. According to El Confidencial, Sainz giggled at the suggestion. "I cannot have my future that relies on others, I have to rely on myself and keep doing what I did in Paul Ricard -- win races and keep showing what I am worth," he said. (GMM)