Feb 22, 2016

A gearbox issue shortens a positive start of the pre-season for Carlos Sainz

The Spaniard has completed 55 laps and has felt a power increase from the Ferrari engine

Carlos Sainz has finished the first day of winter testing with the brand new Toro Rosso STR11 two hours before the checkered flag fell, but he still felt well about the work he did on track. At 03:10pm, his team found an issue related to an element of the gearbox and it was decided to end the day prematurely so it was possible to analyze the problem and solve it on time for tomorrow.

But until that moment, Carlos was the second driver on the standings lap-wise. He made 55 laps, a valuable mileage on the first day with the new engine supplier, Ferrari. It is something remarkable considering the team only had two months to adjust its chassis to fit the new engine. Carlos' laps were also useful to check all systems were working fine and as they were supposed to be.

The first reactions of the driver were positive. Although performance-wise it is still too early to arrive at a conclusion, the engine proved to be more powerful than the one used last year. Its driveability was also better. So far, a good way to kick-off the year. Carlos made stints of up to 15 laps and he tested both the medium and the experimental tyre that Pirelli has brought to Barcelona. With the mediums, he set what turned up to be his fastest time of the day: 1'27''180.

Gearbox issue aside, Carlos still felt optimistic when he stepped out of the car at the end of the day. This is what he had to say.

P: How do you feel after your first day with the new car?

Carlos Sainz: First of all, I must say that for us it's already a success to have made it here. The decision to use Ferrari engines was made very late, so for Toro Rosso to be here is an heroic milestone. Everyone felt a tremendous illusion when we were out on track at 09:00am. To do the first laps of new car made me feel very happy, also because I was the first one to drive it. And I did 55 laps, which is also my number. Good sensations.

P: What are the differences in comparison with the 2015 car?

Carlos Sainz: The car is an evolution from the STR10. For now, the engine is the difference I have felt the most. The rest of the car is very similar to the one we had last year. I must say that the Ferrari guys have helped as a lot during winter to make it on time for the first test, they have helped us from the very first minute. There is a good vibe within the team, maybe because all of them are Italians. For now I only have good words. We have a bit more power and the relationship with Ferrari is good. They have helped us and they have played their role perfectly. We are very happy".

P: Are you worried because of the lack of running during the last two hours?
Carlos Sainz: "It would have been ideal to do more mileage, but it's normal for us to have small problems because of how tight our schedule was. We will improve from here. As days go by, we will do more and more laps. A 156-lap program is still far away, we cannot compare ourselves to Mercedes, but we are very close to our real rivals".

P: Tell us about what you felt from the Ferrari engine.
Carlos Sainz: "It has more power and on top of all is much simpler. It's a good step forward, it's what we expected. At least that's what I think. Its driveability is good. Now we do less tweaks on the steering-wheel and everything works in a more automatic way. That's helpful because now we don't have to talk as much on the radio about batteries and fuel-consumption".

P: What's next on Toro Rosso's program?
Carlos Sainz: "It will be a bit of an improvisation, I guess. Today we had to see how many laps we could run. Now we've seen the areas where we can work on. For the next three days, we will improvise a bit. The car we'll bring to the first race is not like the one we have here, at least not 100%, so our goal is to do as many laps as possible. On the second week of testing we will do set-up and performance work.

P: What is Toro Rosso's goal?

Carlos Sainz: "The team has always set the bar at the fifth place of the Constructors' Championship. Ferrari and Mercedes will play on their own league, I hope we can be within the first five teams, although until Australia we won't really know where we stand".

P: And what do you expect as a driver?

Carlos Sainz: "My personal goals will depend on how the first race unfolds. If we are indeed within the Top 8, that's what we'll pursuit for the remaining races. If the car is within the Top 14, then we'll have to adjust our objectives to make sure that we always make the most out of the chassis.

P: What do you expect from 2016?

Carlos Sainz: Less reliability issues and more race finishes. I will do a good step forward as a driver thanks to these factors and the experience I gained over last year. Let's be patient and see how we do in Australia. After that race I may be able to tell where we'll be in the following tracks. You have to give me some time.

P: Will you be able to be just behind the top teams?
Carlos Sainz: "After Ferrari and Mercedes, there will be another level where you may find Red Bull and Williams, two teams that should be in front of us. And then there is a third level, which is ours. You can't compare Toro Rosso to Red Bull".

P: But Christian Horner thinks Toro Rosso may be able to be in front of Red Bull.
Carlos Sainz: "I guess it's a way of taking pressure off. They may say now that they will perform bad, but big teams always find performance.

P: What are the problems of the late engine-switch decision?

Carlos Sainz: "That compromised certain elements of the car, such as the aerodynamics or the set-up. Also bits that haven't arrived yet. That's why is so good to be here today, because two months ago we thought that maybe this wouldn't be possible".

P: Will it be a problem to use a 2015-spec engine?

Carlos Sainz: "It may affect our performance as the season goes on. Last year we saw the main engines improved along the year, so it may be the same case and we may fall back as the calendar goes on. But its reliability should be helpful. Luckily, one factor will make up for the other one. I don't know how that will translate into points, but we must make the most out of the first half of the season".

Tomorrow, Dutch driver Max Verstappen will continue the Toro Rosso testing program before Carlos resumes his work with the STR11 on Wednesday.