Why Is Carlos Sainz Known as the ‘Smooth Operator’?

Published 08/13/2021, 2:26 PM EDT
MONTE CARLO, MONACO: Carlos Sainz Jr. of McLaren F1 Team in the paddock during the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)


The F1 drivers somehow make for the easiest memes. Their personalities and inside jokes soon become a part of the larger community. One such person is the Chilli of the grid, aka Carlos Sainz, aka Smooth Operator.

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Driving around Silverstone, Sade’s 1984 hit ‘Smooth Operator’ had been playing a lot on the radio. The tune was soon stuck in Sainz’s head and after a good qualifying session in Silverstone, Carlos made his singing debut. He lit the airwaves, and after thanking his team, sang the song.

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What cemented the nickname, however, was Sainz’s post-race celebrations at the Hungarian GP shortly after. He repeated the rendition, permanently making himself the Smooth operator of the grid. After bagging his second top 5 wins in F1, Sainz’s team radio went like: “‘Tom, you know what that was? That was a Smooth Operator! Smooth Operation!”

Carlos ‘Smooth Operator’ Sainz

Carlos admittedly didn’t know what the song meant. Explaining the joke, he said, “I just started hearing it on the radio. And apparently, it is quite a bit famous song.”

He added, “After the race [at the Hungaroring] I sang this song, without knowing what a smooth operator was. Then people in the team started telling me what was a smooth operator. And then I realized, well, maybe I can attribute myself that and start creating a bit of a joke around me.

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In a very touching sentiment, Sainz even brought up the song at the 2020 Abu Dhabi GP. The Spaniard helped McLaren finish P3 in the constructors’ championship and his final race with the Papaya team; he bid them adieu in a fitting way. “I’ve enjoyed myself a lot driving for you. What a way to close it, P3. Bravo! Bravo everyone… and for one last time, I will sing for you…”

Sainz sang his song for the team and was accompanied by his race engineer as well.

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And hence the name stuck: Carlos Sainz, the smoothest operator of them all.

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Shreya Sanjeev

345 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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