Sainz praises Alonso for support and mentoring

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Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz has credited two-time world champion Fernando Alonso's guidance for helping him make it into Formula One.

"Fernando mentored me since I was 15," Sainz said. "It helped me a lot. Perhaps without him, I would not be here today. I owe him a great deal."

Despite the strong bond between the two Spanish drivers, Sainz recently admitted that he wouldn't give up a potential podium position to Alonso even if it cost his mentor a world championship in the process.

"When you drive in Formula One, you see a McLaren behind and you don't see Fernando Alonso, the person," he had said. "I am not just going to let him by, especially if I am in P3 and about to get the first podium of my career, or my first win or whatever."

Despite missing out on promotion to the senior Red Bull Racing team in 2016 to his younger team mate Max Verstappen, Sainz insisted that he still regarded last season as overall a major development for him personally within the sport.

"It was a very good year," he told the Spanish broadcaster Antena 3. "Everything went very well and I took a very important step forward in my sporting career in 2016."

Sainz added that he was looking for even bigger improvements in the forthcoming new season, and would be pushing as hard as possible with his preparations.

"It meant that on New Year's Eve I couldn't party as hard as I did in other years, but you have to make these sacrifices every once in a while," he said

Sainz also spoke of his relief after hearing from his father, world rallying legend Carlos Sainz Sr, who last week suffered a major crash during the opening stages of the Dakkar Rally. Sainz revealed that his father had phoned him after the accident to reassure his sone that he was unhurt.

The 54-year-old's Peugeot DKR 3008 lost control as it rounded a corner and skidded onto its side during Thursday's Jujuy-Tupiza stage. Sainz and his co-driver Lucas Cruz were shaken but injured, and managed to limp the car to a service station before retiring from the event.

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