Canny Carlin the talent spotter

Team boss knows what to look for in young drivers

Some of you may remember that in the January 2011 issue I talked to Trevor Carlin about Carlin Motorsport. The team – which competes in British F3, GP2, GP3 and the Renault World Series – has employed the services of many current Formula 1 drivers and ran 2011 World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the ’06 Formula Renault 3.5 series.

Racing director Trevor is not easily impressed, but I remember at the time he was singing the praises of Jean-Eric Vergne. Fast-forward 10 months and the Frenchman has driven for Red Bull in the young driver tests in Abu Dhabi. He was only four-tenths off Vettel’s pole position time and there is talk about a Friday practice role in 2012. In other words, Carlin knows what to look for.

“Vettel stood out in the World Series,” he says. “He’s got a great attitude but he’s also very quick. I haven’t spoken to him in a little while, but when I bump into him at the track he’s the same now as he was in 2006 when he first ran for us. He’s a nice kid, but he’s very focused.

“What you find is that a lot of drivers can drive a car quickly and a lot can do it regularly. It’s the ‘something different’ about a few drivers. All they’re interested in is themselves and their car, they’re totally focused and they almost don’t give a shit about the team. So long as we’re doing the right job for them they are happy, but they’ll drop us the minute they need to and move on. They’re totally single-minded.

“That all works well for us when they’re up at the front, but when they’re not you really know about it. They just can’t accept being second or third, they’re pissed off and they want to know why. I think that makes the difference between a good driver and a great driver – that little bit of attitude. I think Vettel’s got it and I see that with Jean-Eric. We haven’t had the chance yet to really get to know Carlos [Sainz Jr], but the big thing you can see with him straight away is his absolute commitment and car control. And, of course, he’s completely driven like his dad!”

Once you’ve had an introduction like that from Trevor Carlin, you may not have a guaranteed Formula 1 seat, but you know you’re on the right track. Whether or not Carlos Jr has what it takes to make it to the top remains to be seen, but he’s certainly made the right start.