Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr has always had connections to Fernando Alonso, crediting his Spanish compatriot as his mentor and as someone who helped him to step up to Formula 1. Through Alonso's move to McLaren in 2015, the two time champion has found himself battling in the midfield, which has meant that Sainz has often encountered his role model out on track.
In these encounters with McLaren's Alonso, Sainz has revealed that there is nothing personal in their battles out on track, adding that encounters with his hero are meaning that he is learning a lot: "It's definitely a great learning situation for me for the upcoming years," said Sainz. "It's like battling for a win. Normally Fernando should be battling for wins. We are battling for the win of the midfield with a double world champion, and probably the best driver of the grid."
One notable fight between Sainz and Alonso was at this year's Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break, which saw the latter come out on top: "It was a very tough task to defend from Fernando, as he was much faster than us," Sainz said "In the end he got past us. I did learn a lot of stuff. It's my third year and you never stop learning."
Hungary was not the first time that the two Spaniards clashed out on track, with both battling each other at the Chinese Grand Prix. On this occasion, Sainz came out on top. These battles did not begin this season, and the pair fought one another at the US and Mexican Grand Prix at the end of the 2016 season, which saw Sainz force Alonso off the track in the latter event.
Sainz played down these incidents and said that they should be expected to occur over the course of the season. The shared nationality of Alonso and Sainz did not help, and he felt that this led to unneeded focus on them in the media.
"The mentally of the people when they look at it, yes because they are both Spanish, one is the mentor and the other is the kid learning from him," he said. "They want to spice it up. But I battle with him like I battle with any other driver on the grid. Yes, he might be a bit better than others," he added.