A spirited speed devil

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am

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Driving a racecar around a track at 250km/h is no child's play. It requires great concentration, fine reflexes and flawless driving skills.

Carlos Sainz Junior is just 17, but he already knows all about that.

Like his competitors, the young driver is under constant pressure to make the right moves to shave that extra second off his time lap after gruelling lap. Yet unlike most, he also has to deal with an added source of pressure: his father's fame.

Carlos Sainz Senior is a two-time World Rally champion and a legend in the world of motorsports.

'There was pressure at the beginning,' concedes Carlos Junior, who began racing go-karts as a wee lad of 11.

'Instead of having one pair of eyes watching you [your father's], you have 30 pairs. People would say: 'He's the son of Carlos Sainz, let's see how good he is'.'

Undaunted, the boy quickly adopted to the pressure and began excelling in the sport. After he learned the basics of racecar driving in go-karts, he moved on to single seaters to prove his mettle.

Last year he was selected as a member of the Red Bull Junior Racing Team, becoming the team's youngest driver. Earlier this year, he was crowned champion of the Formula Renault NEC category.

Carlos has set out to emulate his famous father, yet Sainz Sr himself never placed pressure on his son to do that.

'Obviously I have a lot of passion for the sport. But it was ultimately his decision. He's doing what he likes to do: driving,' his father explains.

Yet just like any other father, he is very proud of his son's achievements. He tries to be there at his son's races whenever he can to show his support.

'My father knows what it takes to become a champion,' the younger Sainz says. 'He always tells me it's the attitude. But he never gives me driving advice like how to turn this corner or that.'

At the recent 2011 Macau Grand Prix, Carlos did less well than he had hoped and he knows has a long way to go on the race track yet.

'It's really different with Formula 3,' he says. 'Everything changes. The car is bigger, the engine is bigger.

'You have to be much more accurate and concentrate more. It's tough but I am here to learn.'

He is aided in that by helpers who feed him information and analyses on his lap times and overall performance. Carlos listens carefully to his elders and tries to soak it all up. 'It's good to be young. I have time to learn and work on my weak areas,' he says.

Next year will be a watershed for Carlos. He'll be off to race in the British Formula 3 Championship in a major stepping stone towards his ultimate dream: Formula 1. 'I have been in love with the sport since I was three,' he says.

'My dream has always been to become a Formula 1 driver,' he stresses.