Future McLaren driver Carlos Sainz believes his rivalry with Max Verstappen helped him become “a better driver” when the two were paired together at Toro Rosso.

Both drivers stepped into the F1 limelight together in 2015, racing for the Faenza-based squad where they were evenly matched although it was the Dutchman that was ultimately promoted to Red Bull Racing a year later, at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, a race he promptly won.

Sainz enjoyed an in-season transfer of his own when he was loaned to Renault in the closing stages of the 2017 season, with the expectation that he would either remain with the French team in 2019 or inherit Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at Red Bull, where he would join forces once again with Verstappen.

Neither scenario would come to pass however following Red Bull’s decision to move Pierre Gasly from Faenza to Milton Keynes, while Sainz will switch his allegiance to McLaren.

    Prost: Rich kids always at an advantage in F1

Looking back on his relationship with Verstappen, Sainz insists it was not what many made it out to be.

“Everyone thinks we hated each other, but that certainly is not true,” said the 24-year-old in a podcast with Formula1.com.

“Fans always asked about our relationship, even my own friends asked about it.

“We had a lot of fun next to the job and we went much better together than people think. We were incredibly competitive on the track because we knew we were competing for our careers,” he added.

“For me, there is no doubt that he is one of the most talented drivers. He lifted me to a higher level and he made me a better driver.”