Carlos Sainz says Max Verstappen would have appeared "weak" if he had blocked Red Bull from signing the Spaniard as his team-mate in 2019, dismissing claims that Verstappen had vetoed any potential deal. Pierre Gasly will team with Verstappen next year, after the Frenchman was selected ahead of Sainz to replace Daniel Ricciardo.
Sainz and Verstappen were teammates in 2015 – their rookie year – for Toro Rosso, the Spaniard winning the qualifying battle 10-9, but Verstappen accruing 49 points to Sainz's 18.
Gasly and Sainz were the main contenders to replace the Renault-bound Ricciardo, but reporting at the time suggested that Verstappen had tried to steer Red bull towards the Frenchman.
Helmut Marko was insistent that it was not true and Sainz claims that even if Verstappen had tried to prevent any deal, it would have backfired on him.
Asked if he thought Verstappen had blocked him, Sainz told F1's 'Beyond the Grid' podcast: "I don't know, but I would say no. I don't think drivers really have an effect on that.
"It is a very difficult question you could ask him, but I think as we got on well and we have a rivalry of course, I wouldn't think he would go to Helmut [Marko] or to Christian [Horner] and say: 'No I don't want Carlos.'
"First of all, because the moment you say that, you sound weak, if you to go a team boss and say I don't want him as a teammate, you already sound weak. Secondly, I don't think he ever really said that."
Reporting at the time of Red Bull's decision focused on a rumoured poor relationship between the pair while at Toro Rosso, but Sainz says it couldn't be further from the truth.
"It's one of the big enigmas of the paddock," he said. "Everyone thinks me and Max hate each other, and that's absolutely not the case. We were having fun that year, I promise. We were having a lot of fun out of the track. In the track, we were extremely competitive.
"We knew we were battling for our careers, for our Formula 1 pedigree on our first year, rookie season. I got on with him a lot better than what people think."