Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz feels he learned more from his rollercoaster 2022 campaign than any other since arriving in the sport seven years ago, saying he will “take the positives” into next year.
Sainz joined the F1 grid with Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) back in 2015 and, after team mate Max Verstappen secured promotion to the senior Red Bull team, the Spaniard was forced to look elsewhere to progress his career.
Off the back of encouraging stints with Renault and McLaren, exiting the Red Bull family in the process, Sainz landed a seat at Ferrari alongside Charles Leclerc for 2021 and managed to outscore him during their first season as team mates.
However, 2022 initially proved more challenging for Sainz as he struggled to take to the F1-75 – and F1’s all new regulations – as easily as Leclerc, with retirements at Albert Park (spinning out) and Imola (a clash with Daniel Ricciardo, after crashing in qualifying) giving him a mountain to climb in the championship.
Steady progression saw him gradually cut the gap to his team mate, with his first pole position and victory coming at the British Grand Prix, only for Red Bull to make gains on Ferrari in the development race – meaning a title push was never a realistic prospect.
Asked to reflect on 2022, and what he’s learned from the up-and-down experiences, Sainz said: “A lot, to be honest. It’s been a very challenging start to the season with me immediately on the back foot and heading into challenges that I probably didn’t expect to have.
“But I’m honestly very proud, the way that I recovered the season, the way that I managed to stay motivated, even with all the ups and downs that I had, with all the setbacks that we had.
“As a team, as an individual, with so many DNFs, we still managed to turn the season around and now I’m driving again at the level that I know I’m able to drive. I’m going to take the positives and keep that as a positive.”
Given how much he had to adapt his driving style to suit the 2022-spec Ferrari, and following his particularly tough start to the season, Sainz feels that only in his debut F1 campaign did he learn more over the course of the year.
“I think in that sense, it’s been the year that I’ve learned the most since 2015 –that was my first year in Formula 1. Then I had tougher and easier years, but never such a challenging year as 2022,” commented Sainz, who wound up fifth in the drivers’ standings, three places and 62 points behind Leclerc.
“I found myself in a position where I was driving with this car, I was constantly off the pace in the first five, six races, and I had to fight a lot to change some things in my driving, some things on the car, try to get the car a bit closer to my liking.
“Also, [I had to] stop having some muscle memory on the way I drive and reset a bit the way I was driving, and it took a long time. But then, as soon as it happened, I felt like I had done a big step forward as a driver in my skills, in my development, and I had learned a load.”