Carlos Sainz has played down any lingering speculation that he might still be in the running to change teams for 2017.
Earlier, there were suggestions Red Bull might agree to release the Toro Rosso driver to engine supplier Renault, in exchange for a better deal on the ‘power unit’ supply.
Those rumours resurfaced at Monza, and the correspondent for Denmark’s BT newspaper claims that Sainz was even seen in the Renault motor home.
But Sainz now tells France’s Auto Hebdo: “I think if Red Bull rushed to extend my contract at Toro Rosso, it was only to stop those sorts of rumours.
“I am very pleased that I am appreciated and I’m proud of it. In the history of Toro Rosso there were not too many drivers whose contracts were confirmed so quickly,” said the 22-year-old.
However, Toro Rosso has struggled recently, so Sainz might be forgiven for thinking his career is currently just treading water.
“That’s formula one,” he answered. “I’m only 22. We could say that Valtteri Bottas or Nico (Hulkenberg) is trapped in his team, but not me,” he insisted.
“Another season at Toro Rosso will not spoil my career — on the contrary, it will allow me to show who I really am,” said Sainz.
Not only that, Toro Rosso will swap its ageing, 2015-spec Ferrari power for full 2017-specification Renault units next year.
“Renault is reducing the gap to Mercedes with every grand prix, and we have a team of highly skilled designers under James Key. In general, our new machine will be much closer to Red Bull Racing,” Sainz revealed.
Who Sainz’s teammate will be next year is unclear, with GP2 driver Pierre Gasly champing at the bit and Daniil Kvyat struggling just to keep his F1 career alive.
When asked about Kvyat’s struggle in 2016, Sainz answered: “This is not the first example that shows how harsh the world of F1 can be.
“Daniil is a very talented driver but we always knew he had to continually progress or the worst could happen. In recent years we have often battled so I know what he can do.
“After returning to Toro Rosso, he was quick in Monaco, in Baku. He may have lost a bit of confidence, but it will definitely come back,” Sainz added.