Carlos Sainz ended a five-year wait for McLaren by taking their first podium since 2014 in a hectic Brazilian Grand Prix. Not only that, but it was the Spaniard’s first podium in F1 and it came after he started 20th and last on the grid. Yes, it came after a post-race penalty for Lewis Hamilton, but it still meant the world to him and his team.
Charging up the field
McLaren has made spectacular inroads this year, after a dismal 2018. They finished that year sixth, but that should have been seventh, only moving up one spot thanks to the change in ownership of Force India / Racing Point.
They ended that year with the second slowest car, only really able to outshine Williams consistently. This year, they have finished fourth in the championship and best of the rest behind F1’s ‘big three’ teams, when many experts at the start of the year didn’t think they’d have the pace for much more than sixth. They also secured a new Mercedes engine deal for 2021 onwards, something crucial for their competitive future.
Important for the team, and driver
So, what does this mean for both Sainz and McLaren? Well, one thing it will do is instill confidence. The team has clearly seen a breath of fresh air flow through it in 2019, and the bromance between Sainz and rookie teammate Lando Norris is clearly a big factor in that change.
Fernando Alonso was their star, but the team wasn’t really in a position where having a star world champion such as Alonso would do them any good. Now, they have two young drivers who they can nurture for the future and make their own.
This podium will only add to that confidence the team has gained. That drought, that five-year drought, is finally over. Yes, a penalty for Hamilton after he spun Alexander Albon round gave them this place. But the still finished the race fourth from last and picked up the pieces of Hamilton’s mistake.
For Sainz as well, his confidence will be sky-high. He has already stated that 2019 has probably been his best year in F1 and it is hard to disagree. Signing him was a stroke of genius by McLaren, was promoting Norris up to the race team after a year as test and reserve in 2018.
Looking to 2020
Should McLaren keep this form up into next year, and bridge the gap between themselves and the big three a little bit, perhaps Norris will also take a podium in 2020. And perhaps Sainz can take another, and stand aloft it properly this time.
There was a silver lining to how he received his podium though. He could go up thereafter Hamilton’s penalty and take the whole race team with him. Now, that is certainly one way to celebrate your first podium! Kudos to the FIA and F1 for allowing him to do so.
What it means for F1
For F1 as well, it was an important podium. Seeing McLaren struggle so much since 2013 has not been fun, and it felt wrong not having the team up there. Now, that wrong has been rectified and it is an important rectification for the sport. Should the 2021 rules revolution work out, perhaps podiums and wins for McLaren will be a regular sight once again. The Sainz and McLaren combination could be with us for quite a while yet!