Ross Brawn has questioned "the subconscious effect" on Carlos Sainz and McLaren of his defection to Formula 1 rival McLaren at the end of the season.
Sainz effectively emerged as McLaren's lead driver at the end of last season after finishing 47 points clear of team-mate Lando Norris, only to then announce during the lockdown period he would be leaving to join the Scuderia.
Despite the affection in which Sainz is held at McLaren, F1's managing director motorsports Brawn believes the team will naturally gravitate more towards Norris.
"Carlos is leaving and you can’t help the subconscious effect that will have on him and the team," said Brawn in a column for Formula 1.
"I’ve felt it before during my time working in a Formula 1 team. No matter how professional you are, when someone is leaving, the way you are with a driver who is leaving, versus a driver who is staying, is different. You can’t help it, but it happens."
Norris may have been assisted by a five-second time penalty for Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, but the 20-year-old squeezed Hamilton off the podium by just 0.198secs after putting in the fastest lap of the race on the final lap.
After describing the race as "a thriller...with drama throughout", Brawn added: "And one of the key protagonists was Lando Norris, who couldn’t quite break out of Carlos Sainz’s shadow in his first year with the team last season, but he came of age in Austria on Sunday.
"His last few laps, when he needed to close the gap to Lewis to ensure he could take advantage of the Briton’s five-second time penalty and snatch a maiden podium, were exceptional and simply stunning to see."
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