Review 2015 | Debutants Verstappen and Sainz offer considerable competition to midfield

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Review 2015 |  Debutants Verstappen and Sainz offer considerable competition to midfield

Today, March 15, it is already eight years ago that Max Verstappen made his debut at Toro Rosso, the team that is now called AlphaTauri. Carlos Sainz shared that experience with him, the Spaniard also started his first year in the premier class in Australia that weekend. Verstappen was then a teenager of seventeen years old. F1Maximum looks back on the debut of Verstappen and Sainz at Albert Park Street Circuit in Melbourne.

Now that the Limburger is a two-time world champion and has driven a dominant first race in Bahrain, it is hard to imagine that Verstappen was also a rookie at first. As a wonder talent, the 25-year-old entered the Red Bull juniors and was already put in the Toro Rosso car in 2014 to drive free practice during the Grand Prix weekend in Suzuka. Verstappen impressed, and that earned him a seat in the Red Bull Racing satellite team. On March 15, the Dutchman could really start his Formula 1 career, when he started his season as a Toro Rosso driver in Australia.

Sainz followed the same path, although the world titles have so far failed to materialize for the Spaniard, who is now entering his third year with Ferrari. The 28-year-old was also in Red Bull’s training program. The current Ferrari driver was allowed to do the Young Driver Test at Silverstone in 2014 for Toro Rosso and for Red Bull. After the 2014 season ended, Sainz was also allowed to participate in the post-season testing in Abu Dhabi. In 2015, the driver from Madrid, like Verstappen, made his official Formula 1 debut for Toro Rosso.

Numbers 33 and 55 appeared on the grid chasing big dreams

Verstappen made his debut with his trusted number 33, his race number which he has kept until the end of the 2021 season. With the STR10 car, Sainz, with race number 55, and Verstappen started their first season in Formula 1. Both drivers impressed from the start of the weekend to the end. In the free practice sessions, the Dutchman and the Spaniard were fast, sharp, and clearly showed their presence as rookies. In the first free practice Sainz was fourth fastest and Verstappen sixth, and the difference was only a few thousandths.

In that weekend, Red Bull had some problems with Renault’s powertrain, the power source with which the Austrian racing team and its sister team were driving at the time. The Dutchman’s car was struggling with battery problems, he told Verstappen’s time in the top ten was surpassed by several drivers. Sainz clocked the seventh fastest time on Friday afternoon, where the Dutchman took P14. Anyway there was still plenty to do, the day after the third free practice was held and qualifying was on the program.

Toro Rosso smells good points after promising qualifying

In the third free practice of the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen and Sainz were once again close to each other and the drivers were clearly evenly matched. The pace was there, and with the Spaniard’s P9 and Verstappen’s P11, it looked like Toro Rosso could provide some serious competition for the midfield in qualifying. In the first session of qualifying, both Toro Rosso rookies had shown themselves well up front. With Verstappen in P4 and Sainz in P6, confidence was definitely there for Q2.

Max Verstappen during his first qualifying of his debut season.
Max Verstappen during his first qualifying of his debut season.

In Q2, the Dutchman and the Spaniard emphasized that they could hold their own among the big names. Sainz had clocked P7 at that time, and Verstappen was on P10 in the elimination zone. Verstappen therefore went for another run, but made a crucial mistake. The trip in the second sector gave Verstappen twelfth place. Sainz also went for an extra run to ensure his place in the top ten. The 28-year-old improved his time and progressed to Q3. Verstappen unfortunately had to drop out. The two Toro Rosso drivers were therefore allowed to start the race from P8 and P12 respectively.

Verstappen’s solid debut not rewarded with points

The two men from the Italian racing stable were allowed to move up one place on the Sunday of the Grand Prix weekend in Australia, as Valtteri Bottas was not allowed to drive due to a back injury. Sainz therefore started P7 and Verstappen from eleventh place. The points were therefore within reach, and that was absolutely the goal of the two youngsters. When the lights turned green on March 15, 2015, Pastor Maldonado was the driver who crashed after the first corner. The Venezuelan was tapped by Felipe Nasr and the incident triggered a safety car.

Shortly afterwards Kimi Raikkonen, then Ferrari driver, made a pit stop, and Verstappen moved up to P8 and drove behind his teammate Sainz. The Dutchman had pressed the accelerator hard, because he soon ran out on Nico Hülkenberg, who was still driving in the Force India at the time. Things didn’t go so well for Sainz, however, when the Spaniard came in for a pit stop, the mechanics couldn’t get the left rear tire off the car, and he lost at least thirty seconds. Verstappen is the one who makes a pit stop as one of the last.

Carlos Sainz lost half a minute at the pit stop of his debut race.
Carlos Sainz lost half a minute at the pit stop of his debut race.

Before his pit stop, the two-time world champion was in fifth place, but after coming in for fresh rubber he dropped back to P9. Unfortunately, the Limburger did not stay in the top ten for long, the Toro Rosso car was struggling with engine problems. Sainz was not bothered by this, so he was able to finish the race. The slow stop caused a lot of frustration for the Spaniard, because he was in a good position for it. In any case, the 28-year-old was able to keep up and fight his way back into the top ten. Sainz finished P9 to take his first two points of the season.

Dutch sobriety after the race

Naturally, the Dutchman was disappointed by his retirement in his debut race, but he knew it was not his fault. “It went really well, so I’m definitely disappointed,” Verstappen told “If I could have finished the race, sixth place would have been possible. Smoke was coming out of the engine, so there’s no point in getting angry.’ Two weeks after the Australian Grand Prix, the Malaysian Grand Prix took place, where Verstappen finished seventh.

Sainz had a frustrating day at the Albert Park Street Circuit, but he was certainly relieved to have scored his first points and completed his first Grand Prix weekend with Toro Rosso. “I enjoyed the battles on track,” Sainz said on his official website. The slow stop was a difficult moment for the team, but I had a good start. I’m happy with my first race weekend, and I’ve been able to achieve all my goals. I’m looking forward to racing in Malaysia.” Sainz finished behind his teammate in Malaysia, the Spaniard was eighth there.

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