Carlos Sainz's future has come under the microscope in Austria after he said at the start of the weekend it is "unlikely" he will have a fourth year at Toro Rosso. That was met with a scathing response from Red Bull senior management, who claimed his statement had been "disingenuous" and suggested he was ungrateful to the company which gave him his F1 shot -- all while insisting he is contractually obliged to stay at Toro Rosso in 2018.
Sainz has since faced the international print media at the Red Bull Energy Station in the Spielberg paddock to address the situation. The transcript of that session is below.
Your comments on Thursday caused quite a stir. Are you surprised by the fuss it's caused?
"I wouldn't call it 'fuss', I think that's a strong word, but yes I think everything probably has been thrown a bit out of proportion. What I said yesterday is nothing strange, I believe. I think as an ambitious driver and human it's very clear that my first goal in life is to become a Red Bull driver and start fighting for podiums with them.
"Again, I owe them everything, I owe Toro Rosso and the people there everything I know in Formula One at the moment, but I have ambitions and my ambition is to be a Red Bull driver one day. Hopefully sooner rather than later."
Have you discussed this situation and your future beyond 2018 with the team internally?
"For sure, it was something that was discussed, it's something that will be discussed again I'm sure and that's it. It's going to stay internally because it looks like whatever you say someone can interpret it in very different ways and it can create a bit of a situation which I honestly didn't expect. But I will prefer to keep it internal from now on."
Christian Horner, Helmut Marko and your Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost have all reacted angrily to your statements, were you surprised by that?
"Surprised is not the word. Obviously, I'm not stupid, I see what happens and how everything developed and I was a bit surprised, you can put it that way, but it's something that sometimes happens in Formula One. I will learn from it, let's put it that way, and from now on it will stay a bit more internal."
Will you speak to them about the comments?
"I will, for sure. I have no problem speaking with them because I think I've only said positive things about Red Bull, about my commitment to Red Bull and about what I want in life with Red Bull, no? So I have nothing to regret. I said something very clear and if [someone] doesn't want to interpret it like that, I don't understand."
Is it all just a big misunderstanding?
Christian labelled your comments as "disingenuous". That seems quite harsh?
"What I said is a fact. In 12 years of Toro Rosso nobody has been here a fourth year and for me to be here for a fourth year I would be the first on in history. It would be a strange situation because normally it's a younger team where you want to develop drivers and then move someone up, and it would be strange. Maybe the word 'unlikely' can be interpreted in very different ways but what I said is it's strange, that's it. It would be a strange situation to do a fourth year with Toro Rosso."
You say it's fact -- which it is -- but was it wise to go public with this opinion at the Red Bull Ring in Red Bull's home country?
"I insist, I don't feel like I said something out of proportion. I think the reaction and how everything was written and everything was out of proportion but what I said is what it is. I'm not showing anything else but commitment and loyalty to Red Bull with my words that I said yesterday and I insist... I'm not going to repeat them today because I know what happens and I'm just going to keep it internally."
For you is it 100% clear that you'll be racing in one of the Red Bull teams next year and probably Toro Rosso? Because that's what Christian said in response to you...
"By the looks of it, it looks like they keep trusting me which is great news for me because it looks like my bosses are happy with my performance, this is for sure. So by the looks of it at the moment yes. 2017 is a very long year ahead, things could change, but at the moment it's how it looks."
Christian said it's that situation by contract, you must know what's in your contract...
"Of course I know what's in my contract, I've read it and I know what's in it."
We are talking about 2018, but have you been given any indication about 2019? Because if you stayed you could find yourself in the same situation -- with no route up to Red Bull -- this time next year....
"No, but I don't want to know about 2019. I'm not interested about 2019, I'm interested in 2017, focused on this season. 2019 is so far away that I don't really care what's going to happen in 2019. I know I'm ready to take a step up in my career, I think my results also show it - it's not something that I'm inventing - and I'm happy with my performance and focused on 2017."
Are you and your management allowed to talk to anyone outside of Red Bull about 2018?
"I think everyone is free to do whatever they want, but I really don't have a clear management. It's myself with Helmut Marko and Christian Horner, but especially Helmut Marko and Franz Tost and everything I have to discuss I will discuss it myself."
If they wanted you to leave do you have reasonable alternatives to go? Been made any offers?
"I cannot talk about that and I will not talk about that because then a big story will come up. What I know is I'm ready to take a step forward and I would like to take a step forward in my career and I would love to do it with Red Bull. This is my one and only target at the moment and the only reason I want to perform in 2017 and keep performing like I'm doing is to have a Red Bull seat in the future."
Do you feel like if you performed really well for the rest of this year you could knock one of the other drivers out? They seem pretty set...
"That's a question to Christian and Helmut but it doesn't look like it."