But for Carlos Sainz Jr, who is the last hiring of the prancing horse, this moment stands out for its somewhat unusual character.

Not for having been a big ceremony in Maranello and then a festive lunch with his new bosses.

Instead, he became an official Ferrari driver what seemed like a very normal morning when he got out of bed.

“It’s actually a bit of a funny story because it’s been a long time of negotiation,” Sainz said, speaking in an exclusive interview with Autosport about when he first became a Ferrari driver. times.

“It was during COVID [lockdown], so the discussions all took place on Zoom and phone calls, which made everything a bit trickier.

“We had to adapt to the situation and I signed it on exactly the same table that I’m doing this interview now here in Madrid, in the little office we have in the house.

“We had gone through all of the confinement with the family, and then one day I wake up around 8 a.m. and I’m still in my pajamas.

“I walk into this room, and I see my dad is ready with a pen. He said: ‘You have to sign here: this is the Ferrari contract. And it’s done if you sign. ‘

“So I signed it in my pajamas at 8am, right after waking up! I was like ‘Okay, hello to you too’.”

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Photo By: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Since that contract officially started at the start of this year, Sainz hasn’t looked back.

From his first test at Fiorano in a 2018 car earlier this year, when tifosi’s participation in welcoming him was a revelation, to the various experiences he has had within the team, Sainz has fitted in well. .

Of course, like any F1 season, there have been ups and downs and aspects of the car that he wasn’t entirely happy with, but life as a Ferrari driver has been good.

It has been a journey and, for someone as down to earth as the Spaniard, it has been a bit of an eye opener on how others perceive him, especially when he meets the tifosi.

“It’s true that the fans in Italy are super passionate and super respectful in a way that I never expected,” he explains.

“I mean even touching you or shaking your hand, for them that’s something super special. They really respect you, and they really put you on a pedestal for some reason, and it’s pretty impactful.

“They get very nervous when you’re around them, and it’s a feeling I’ve never had before as a driver: how nervous people get when you’re around them.

“I pat them on the back and say, ‘Come on, I’m 27 like you, relax and take the pictures.’ But I often pick up the phone to take it myself.

“It’s crazy and I love it. They are also super funny with the things they say, so life has changed a bit, but at the same time I managed to keep a good balance.”

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari

Photo by: Federico Basile / Motorsport Images

It’s not just fans who look at Sainz in a different way. Ferrari gets a lot more media coverage than the other teams – especially in Italy – and that leads to a change in behavior.

Sainz knows he must now think before he speaks, because one flippant remark can be enough to create a story out of control.

“It’s interesting how little ‘news’ can turn into huge ‘news’ just because you’re Ferrari, or part of Ferrari,” he explains.

“In Italy it happens a lot and it’s something I’m still learning to manage.

“I’m still learning to speak a certain way, to realize that maybe if I say it that way instead of saying it the other way around, it may or may not turn into a headline.

“As a pilot I’m trying to teach myself to handle these kinds of situations because it’s not easy at all.”

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Photo By: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

What the increased interest from fans and the media has shown to Sainz is that driving for Ferrari brings something that doesn’t exist in other teams: it’s being part of something much bigger.

“There is an additional responsibility that does not exist in other teams,” he admits. “The fact that you’re running for a country is different, you know.

“It’s like playing for Real Madrid and Spain at the same time. Running for Ferrari means you are racing for Ferrari and for Italy, and you have to be aware of that and have the responsibility that goes with it.

“But for me, it’s an honor. Italy is a country that I love and in which I spend a lot of time.

“When I was a kid, I grew up in Italy, doing go-kart races, so I grew up knowing the passion that there is in Italy for Ferrari, and I grew up knowing that a lot of those karters I was racing against wanted to be a Ferrari driver.

“It is a huge honor and a huge privilege to have it for me. It is something that I am very proud of.”

Racing for Ferrari has also meant adjusting to a new country, as Sainz has moved away from a race with British teams, having recently driven for Renault (Team Enstone) and McLaren.

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, 3rd place, lifts his trophy

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, 3rd place, lifts his trophy

Photo By: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

And while it’s often known that the culture at Ferrari is so different from anywhere else, Sainz says that in fact most F1 teams now operate the same.

“There’s a different kind of culture and different ways of doing things,” he says. “But at the same time, modern F1 teams today have converged a lot in terms of work approach, work ethic and professionalism.

“It’s true that there are now a lot of multicultural teams. Even Ferrari is full of Englishmen and Americans. Even in my group of engineers, we are an American, a Scots, a Spaniard and an Italian. This is my group who I go to dinner with every day.

“So that just shows that F1 has converged a lot. But of course Ferrari has its own culture that you have to understand and its own way of doing things that you have to adapt to and see how it works.”

While life at Ferrari needs such a change, what Sainz has shown this year is that the added responsibilities and attention that comes with being a Ferrari driver have not been used to make it happen. switch.

He remains one of the nicest, intelligent and articulate riders on the grid, and his feet stay firmly on the ground.

And, while so few humans in history have had the chance to be a Ferrari F1 driver, Sainz says being one feels so natural to him.

“It feels real, when you finally realize it, and just live with it,” he explains.

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Photo By: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“It’s a strange situation because one day you wake up saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to be a Ferrari driver.’

It’s still the same Carlos. He’s still the same guy. It’s always the same driver, with the same passion, with the same talent, who does the work.

“It’s just that you do it for Ferrari. It’s a huge responsibility, and especially when you drive in Italy. It’s the most important thing.

“When you go to Monza you suddenly realize what it’s like to be a Ferrari driver. You feel it all over the world.

“But when you go to Monza and when they’ve opened up a bit over there in Monza and the few events we’ve had there, you suddenly realize, ‘okay, that’s huge!’

“It’s even bigger than I imagine. But you’re still the same Carlos, and nothing changes about that.”

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