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All eyes on Toro Rosso young guns Verstappen and Sainz Jr

January 31, 2015

JEREZ, Spain (AP) — Like father, like son.

At least, that is the long-term plan for Formula One newcomer Carlos Sainz Jr., who hopes to emulate his father by becoming world champion one day.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, the son of two-time rally world champion Carlos Sainz, will make his debut for the Toro Rosso team at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 15.

He almost seems old compared to his teammate, the 17-year-old Max Verstappen.

His father, Jos Verstappen, was a moderately successful F1 driver, competing in over 100 races and securing two podium finishes. That makes him the most successful Dutch racer ever, but his son has far loftier ambitions.

“I’m only 17. But I’ve always wanted to be a Formula One driver, and have a chance. I can’t wait,” the unflappable Verstappen said on Saturday at the Jerez circuit, speaking in the measured tones of a seasoned professional. “I’m not here to drive for 14th or 15th position. You want to be a race winner, you want to finish in the top 10 all the time and, hopefully, with some situations you can have an even better result.”

His father has been a big help.

“He knows the bad side and the good side of it,” Verstappen said. “He’s given me a lot of advice.”

So has Sainz’s father, the world rally champion in 1990 and 1992 who won 26 races and secured almost 100 podiums.

Because their series differ, it is not so much technical advice. Rather, Sainz says, his father has encouraged him to think big “in terms of attitude, and how to become a world champion someday,”

Both drivers profess not to be nervous, yet, with the first race only six weeks away.

“It’s too early to have nerves. In Melbourne there will be more,” Sainz said. “Now, there is more will and concentration.”

Toro Rosso has the youngest driver lineup in F1 history, and former champion Kimi Raikkonen — the oldest driver on the circuit at 35 — is nearly as old as Sainz and Verstappen together.

But team principal Franz Tost considers their age irrelevant.

“To be honest I don’t care what (people are) saying,” he said.

Verstappen has only one season’s experience racing in the European Formula Three championship — finishing third overall last year, when he won 10 of 33 races. His hiring by Toro Rosso prompted motorsport governing body FIA to ban under-18 drivers from F1 next year, and make drivers go through more development series.

Sainz is considerably more experienced, having competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 series — of which he became the youngest champion last year — the European F3 circuit, and British F3 in the past three seasons.

“Max started racing at six years old. This is a new driver generation,” Tost said. “They were most of the time out on a car track, not in a school yard. I’m convinced we will not have any problems.”

Tost cites the example of Russian driver Daniil Kvyat to further prove his point.

Kvyat, who is also 20 and came through Toro Rosso’s racing pool, has earned a lucrative move to Red Bull as a replacement for seven-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, — despite only one season of F1 experience.

“I do not agree with the many argumentations that our drivers are too young,” Tost said. “This argumentation I heard already two years ago with Kvyat, it was the same nonsense.”

Toro Rosso, seventh overall last year, unveiled its new STR10 car on Saturday, and Tost has set the bar high.

“The target is fifth place in the constructors’ championship which means that the drivers must be permanently in the points,” an adamant-sounding Tost said. “I’m convinced we had a real strong package. We started quite early with this car and put in a lot of effort.”

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