Sainz Jr In Caterham Talks

Its all change at Caterham at the moment and even the drivers’ job security is seemingly at a premium, as Red Bull Youngster Carlos Sainz Jr has confirmed that he is talking to Caterham about obtaining a race seat before the end of this season. The 19-year-old is one of the hottest prospects outside of the sport at the moment, as the Spaniard is currently leading the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, in what is his first season in the series. Therefore, its no surprise that Mr.Mateschitz and company are looking to fast track the youngster into Formula One.

(c) Willtron
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carlos_Sainz_Jr_en_Motorland.JPG

Caterham Indebted

So, why do Red Bull have such an influence over Caterham? Well, the Leafield based team are a Red Bull customer, as they receive their gearboxes from Milton Keynes. Therefore, Caterham are inclined to listen to the team who could potentially leave them without the essential equipment they need over the course of a season. In this instance, the team’s driver line-up is being challenged.
However, this is perhaps over-stating the power that Red Bull have over Caterham. Yes, they have a strong case to influence activity at Caterham, but I doubt the team are contractually obliged to listen – That would be ridiculous, and a team would never sign a contract with a rival which would have such implications. My guess is that Red Bull have made a strong case for Carlos Sainz Jr, and Caterham have listened. Considering the nature of their season, its likely that they would be willing to listen. 
Neither Kamui Kobayashi nor Marcus Ericsson have performed so far this season, with the latter proving particularly disappointing in this campaign. Ericsson has struggled to come to terms with the sport and while this modern era of Formula One is a challenging one, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen have both managed to exceed expectation despite the challenges. Coupled with his struggles in GP2 last year, Caterham seem to have taken a gamble on the Swede, which for now at least, looks to have not paid dividend. While Kobayashi has also struggled, Ericsson has unfortunately been at the bottom of the timesheet all too often this year and could potentially be ditched before the end of the season, with Sainz set to step up.

Evaluating Sainz’s Chances

While in-season driver changes are very rare, they are not unprecedented – especially in struggling outfits such as Caterham. Lets not forget, current sensation Daniel Ricciardo’s career started when he was drafted into a seat at HRT in 2011, when he replaced the out-of-favour Narain Karthikeyan ahead of the British Grand Prix. Immediately after his short 2011 campaign, the Aussie found his way into the Toro Rosso and you all know how the story ends.
Red Bull therefore, have a history of incorporating other teams in the development of their young talent and Caterham seem to a shoe-in for Sainz Jr. The rookie is certainly the hottest prospect in junior formula at the moment, with a strong campaign so far in the ever challenging FR3.5 series. While we have seen many drivers’ careers stall upon taking a drive at a troubled team, if Sainz was to take a role at Caterham, the situation would be different. He would have the backing of Red Bull, who have proved to be a powerful ally, and I would imagine that a seat at Caterham this season would be followed by a stint at Toro Rosso, particularly since Jean-Eric Vergne seems to be on borrowed time. Yes, the amount of talent which enters Formula One through Dr Helmut Marko’s School of Hard Knocks is so vast that even the likes of Jean Eric Vergne’s career is in danger of reaching an impasse.
How about a Kvyat and Sainz Jr partnership for 2015? It would be incredibly inexperienced, but it would be packed full of potential. I would be willing to bet that one of the two aforementioned drivers will be the next driver to ascend to Red Bull and if Sainz Jr could get a head start at Caterham, it would stand him in good stead to challenge the remarkable talent that is Daniil Kvyat. Watch this space…      

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