This in itself seems odd; the champion is not yet crowned but the next contingent of racers are already thrust under an intense microscope of scrutiny and analysis – some before they have even made their debuts.
The now-vacant 2015 Toro Rosso seat has certainly become a talking point, so too has its contenders. Indeed, Carlos Sainz Jr. has been evaluated alongside his fellow Red Bull juniors too many times to count but I am yet to see a comparison between the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 champion and his 2013 predecessor Kevin Magnussen.
Handily, both drivers contested two seasons of Renault’s flagship series which certainly aids this statistical review. In the tables below, you will see their results each year and who was the most dominant on their way to becoming champion…
Magnussen made his FR3.5 début for Carlin in 2012 after a successful run in British Formula 3 the previous year. The Dane was racing for the famed British outfit towards the end of its prominence in the series so was able to secure seventh in the championship against a world-class field. Robin Frijns, Jules Bianchi, Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa were the top four drivers that year. Team mate Will Stevens finished twelfth in the second Carlin.
In stark contrast, Sainz Jr. made his début in a much weaker Zeta Corse in 2013. The then-Italian owned outfit was not as strong and the Spaniard crucially contested less races. Zeta was struggling and their rotating driver line up was a reflection of this; the Red Bull junior only completed nine of a possible 17 races. Long-time team mate William Buller was eleventh while Sainz Jr. was nineteenth. The team generally made notable improvements after gaining a Russian license at the start of 2014 and finished third in the drivers’ championship with Roberto Merhi that year.
Indeed, at the start of the 2013, the season was billed as a fight between Magnussen, his fellow McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne and Red Bull’s Antonio Felix da Costa and this largely delivered. Magnussen won more races than his rivals (five) but not by much in what was a very competitive year. It was his consistency at the helm of his DAMS Racing that challenger that secured the Dane his title win. He finished outside the points on just one occasion (on the demanding tarmac in Moscow) and was disqualified from his race one win in France after a DRS infringement. This and this alone prevented the now McLaren F1 driver from securing the title at the penultimate round. His five wins – including a back-to-back at the final weekend – and eight podiums from seventeen races certainly help him stand out in a list of talented names that year.
Meanwhile, Sainz Jr.’s 2014 title winning year was record-breaking; he became both the first Red Bull junior and youngest driver to win such an accolade since the series’ inception in 2005. With only three of 2013’s top ten drivers returning to the 3.5 litre machines, it was a line-up mostly comprising of rookies including another Red Bull junior, Pierre Gasly. Spain’s Sainz Jr. replaced Magnussen in car number one at DAMS Racing and won more races than any other driver in FR3.5 history with seven, six of which were from pole position. Interestingly, as the table below depicts, Sainz Jr. did not finish in any other podium position and dropped outside the top ten four times with one further retirement. His worst performance also came at the same time as his championship winning weekend; the 20-year-old left the final round in Jerez without a point to his credit so celebrated his championship in the pit lane. I suspect that this will largely be forgotten when Red Bull/Toro Rosso come to make their decision for next year.
2013 signalled their first and only year competing together in FR3.5 as champion Magnussen was promoted to a McLaren race seat.
|2013||5||8||3||8||0 (1 DQ)||274||1st|
Magnussen gained a 60 point lead over Vandoorne while Sainz Jr. finished 35 points ahead of Gasly.
*The drivers’ initials are listed alphabetically. This order is not intended to reflect any bias. No conclusion has been drawn from the data – instead you are invited to form your own opinion based on the evidence shown above.