It’s been an excruciating month for Carlos Sainz with the Spaniard spending the majority of F1’s summer break without a drive for 2019, after Renault opted for Daniel Ricciardo in a last-minute shock swoop.

But his future was secured last week with Sainz inking a multi-year deal with McLaren – replacing his childhood idol two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.

“It’s particularly special that I’ll be taking his seat as part of the next generation of Spanish racing drivers behind the wheel of a McLaren,” Sainz said.

McLaren worked quickly to fill Alonso’s shoes at the team, with Sainz the perfect fit: quick, hungry to prove himself as a team leader, and brings valuable knowledge of the Renault power unit.

But it’s going to be a significant challenge for Sainz, with McLaren locked into a long rebuilding phase, its technical team still yet to be completed.

… and the Spaniard yet to properly lead a team, which comes with much bigger pressure and expectations.

Sainz, though, is one of F1’s hottest young stars, one capable of winning – and on his day, beating F1’s heir apparent Max Verstappen.

“There's not only Max but there's Stoffel Vandoorne, Charles Leclerc, [and] Pierre Gasly. We are a new generation of drivers and we can all be capable of being world champions.”

However, across the first 12 events, Sainz’s teammate Nico Hülkenberg has led him on results – 7-5 in qualifying, 5-2 in races when they could be compared, and 52 points to 30.

Sainz shone, though, at the last round in Hungary as the star of a sodden qualifying session – taking the RS18 to fifth on the grid, his highest slot for Renault, and his equal-highest ever.

And he can shine again, with Sainz surrounded by top racing brains – like his father Carlos Sainz Senior, a 2-time World Rally Champion and Dakar winner, and 4-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost.

“I’m surrounded, as you said, [by] really cool people. Yeah, really, a lot of people that know about the sport, but probably Alain Prost is the best example. I try to have a lot of contact with him, [and] try to receive a few advices from him.”

The last nine races will be crucial for Sainz to up his game, and prepare himself mentally for the huge pressure of his new challenge at McLaren.