Carlos Sainz says that McLaren has the equipment to get back to the top of Formula 1, but concedes that Mercedes has set a very high benchmark. Sainz joins McLaren for the 2019 season after stints with Toro Rosso and Renault.
McLaren has struggled in recent years, and hasn't won a race since 2012. After a failed partnership with Honda from 2015 to 2017, it opted to ditch the Japanese manufacturer and take on Renault power units - however strong results failed to materialise in 2019.
Sainz takes the seat of Fernando Alonso who has decided to walk away from Formula 1, and will be joined by rookie Lando Norris. But amid McLaren's woes, Sainz says that the team already understand where it went wrong in 2018.
"I don't see a lot of scratching heads," he said. "I see they more or less have a very clear picture of what has happened, why and the way we need to improve. So already when I got here, they made me an explanation and presentation of what happened. So for me it was very positive to see some clear minds out there and strong leadership to see where we are going.
"Another thing is whether it is going to work or not next year, this we don't know. We know we have a direction, we know we have an analysis but it is going to take time. That is everything I can say.
"It is still not going to be night and day, and it is still going to be a process of years ahead, but I am happy to be part of this process and I am proud of this team because I think I can be a good help and I can improve with them altogether."
But the Spaniard is wary of the high bar Mercedes has set, winning five consecutive constructors' and drivers' championships: "I think McLaren has the tools [to return to the top] but I still think that Mercedes has set a new bar to everyone.
"I think every team that is not Mercedes right now is playing catch up because they have set a new benchmark to all the teams of F1, the way they need to work and perform to get the level they are, which is simply incredible at the moment.
"That is why there is not a lot of rush but there is a commitment to improve McLaren and to make it first, a solid midfield car and then do a step, and that is our short-term/mid-term plan and hopefully one day this team, and hopefully I am still here, goes back to where it belongs."
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