Carlos Sainz felt 'at eye level' with Max Verstappen

Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 28, 2016
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Carlos Sainz has said that he is looking forward to shining again in 2017.

Carlos Sainz has said that he is looking forward to shining again in 2017.

Sainz began the season alongside Max Verstappen, performing well until the latter was surprisingly called up to replace Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull Racing.

Many, however, believe that Sainz would have performed just as well if it had been him who got the promotion.

"When we were together at Toro Rosso, there were only a couple of tenths between us. Sometimes the pendulum was with him, then it swung back to me," the Spaniard told Auto Motor und Sport.

"We were more or less at eye level."

While Verstappen got the boost to the front of the grid, Sainz was left at Toro Rosso, who have increasingly struggled with a 2015 Ferrari engine that is not being developed.

"Put it this way, it's certainly not an advantage," he admits. "McLaren (Honda) has made up ground and on tracks like Spa and Monza, we will find it hard."

The good news for Sainz is that he is definitely staying in F1 - with Toro Rosso - for 2017.

"It's a good feeling," he admitted. "Especially so early in the season. I know from personal experience how nervous you feel if you are not confirmed. And I really look forward to a third year at Toro Rosso."

Sainz is confident about 2017, in part, because Toro Rosso is stepping up to full 2017-spec Renault power next year.

He said: "When you see the progress Renault has made in the last few months, then I'm really confident."

The 2016 championship continues in Belgium in two weeks' time.

Max Verstappen of Toro Rosso ahead of the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on March 31, 2016 i
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